Florida Conservatives Look To Void Paid Sick Days Initiative Before It Even Passes

Our guest blogger is Sarah Jane Glynn, an economic policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

When is a democracy not a democracy? Apparently the answer to that riddle is “when voters indicate they are interested in passing paid sick days laws.” In 2008, voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin passed a referendum requiring earned sick leave for workers, but before it could go into effect Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) signed a bill which deprived individual cities of the ability to pass laws governing workers benefits, including paid sick leave.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has preemptively signed a very similar law in the state of Louisiana, before advocates even had the chance to get a paid sick leave referendum on the ballot. And as November’s election draws closer, Florida is poised to do the same.

The campaign for earned sick leave in Orange County, Florida sparked serious opposition even before advocates submitted more than 50,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify the initiative for placement on the ballot. And now Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the County Commission are attempting to follow in the footsteps of Walker and Jindal by trying to place another initiative on the same ballot that would bar any workplace regulation covering employer-employee benefits.

If passed, the mayor’s initiative would render the paid sick days law moot, even if the sick days measure passed as well. Why all the fuss in the first place? The earned sick time initiative would allow workers in businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that such a policy would result in a net savings of $5.1 million for Orange County employers each year.

But the opposition continues to inflate the cost to businesses, by assuming every worker would take the maximum amount of leave (when workers take on average only 2–3 days per year), ignoring the fact that small employers are exempt, and pretending that seasonal workers would be covered (when an employee must work 90 days before they could start accruing leave).

The County Commission will be meeting tomorrow to decide whether the countermeasure will be on the ballot alongside the earned sick time initiative.