The United States is one of the only countries in the developed world that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid sick leave. However, two cities — San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — have passed their own laws to guarantee workers paid time off when they’re sick.
In 2008, Milwaukee, Wisconsin became the third U.S. city to require paid sick leave for workers, when voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum, but the measure has been tied up in the Wisconsin courts ever since. Today, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals finally ruled that the law can move forward. The Wisconsin Supreme Court deadlocked over the issue last year, giving the Court of Appeals the power to affirm the law.
However, Wisconsin’s Republicans are now moving legislation to block Milwaukee, or any other Wisconsin city, from ever implementing the law:
Republican legislators have drafted a bill that would prohibit municipalities from setting paid sick leave requirements that exceed state requirements. State law requires firms provide sick leave, but not paid time off. The proposal passed the Wisconsin Senate on a 19-0 vote on March 3, and awaits a hearing by the Wisconsin Assembly on Labor and Workforce Development. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) supports the legislation, said communications director John Jagler.
Wisconsin’s state Republicans — along with Gov. Scott Walker (R) — have already made their contempt for workers well known, passing a bill that stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights. But refusing to provide paid sick leave to workers is short-sighted, dismissing the myriad benefits such a policy provides.
After all, the U.S. economy loses $180 billion in productivity annually due to sick employees attending work and infecting other workers. And lack of paid leave not only means sick employees coming to work, but sick children being sent to school by parents who can’t afford to take time off to care for them.
The common argument against providing paid sick leave is that it will drive up costs for businesses. However, the Drum Major Institute released a study examining San Francisco’s paid sick leave law and found “no evidence that businesses in San Francisco have been negatively impacted by the enactment of paid sick leave.”
Wisconsin’s Republicans have already demonized their public employees in order to pass union-busting measures and propose draconian cuts to health care and education. Denying workers paid sick leave, which Wisconsinites voted for by a huge margin, would be adding insult to injury. Protests against the legislature’s move to block the paid sick day measure are taking place at noon today.