Workers in Orange County, Florida, might not have paid sick leave to look forward to in the coming months, after conservative lawmakers successfully negated a ballot initiative that would have required any business of more than 15 employees to provide paid sick days. The Orange County Commission voted to delay consideration of the measure last night.
The commission ruled that the initiative couldn’t appear on the ballot because an outside lawyer was needed to edit the ballot language. That lawyer’s revisions won’t be due until October 16, meaning that the sick days measure won’t meet the September deadline for initiatives slated for the November ballot.
Sick leave advocates were outraged. When the vote was announced — after six hours of debate — they “stood in unison and turned their backs on commissioners, with some chanting ‘no justice, no peace’ as they walked out.” In a statement, Citizens for a Greater Orange County called the commission’s move “voter suppression in its purest form” and saying they will sue the commission:
Instead of putting the first ever citizen-led petition in Orange County on the November ballot they violated the law requiring them to let voters have their say. In the process, they silenced the voices of more than 50,000 citizens who signed petitions to put Earned Sick Time on the ballot. These commissioners should be ashamed. Because of their failure to follow the law and perform their duties proscribed in the county charter, we will be filing a court suit later today.
The Orange County Commission’s refusal to put Earned Sick Time on the November ballot is voter suppression in its purest form. The advocates who helped gather the necessary signatures played by the rules for citizen-led initiatives under the Orange County Charter.
The comissioners are not the first to claim that the Earned Sick Leave ballot language is unclear. They were perhaps inspired by the the lawsuit filed by big businesses earlier this year to block the measure. In that suit — which was dismissed yesterday — businesses argued that it was unclear whether churches and non-profits would be exempt from the paid sick leave law. (They would not.)
Orange County’s paid sick leave effort would require any employer with more than 15 workers to provide one hour of sick time for every 37 hours worked, maxing out at 56 hours of sick leave a year. A worker could use that leave to take off when sick or to take time to care for a sick family member. Such policies are beneficial to businesses, because employees don’t come in sick to infect other workers.