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Paid Sick Days Victory in Milwaukee- But Business Lobby is Going to Court

One key victory on election day was a victory for paid sick days in Milwaukee by a commanding 69-31% of city voters.  Parents in Milwaukee who need to take a day off to care for a sick child can now afford to do so now that their paid sick days referendum has Milwaukee following the lead of San Francisco, CA and Washington DC. in adopting a program to require employers to provide paid sick days.  Under the measure, full-time workers in large businesses will earn up to 9 paid sick days a year and workers in smaller businesses with fewer than 10 employees will earn up to 5 days a year.

While business leaders didn't challenge the referendum at the ballot box because they knew polling showed overwhelming public support for paid sick days legislation, but the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has launched a legal challenge to the approved ordinance. 

Community and labor groups are working with Mayor Tom Barrett, who opposed the measure but has decided to respect the voters' wishes. The referendum must be implemented within 90 days of publication in local papers.   While the Milwaukee business leaders are trying to argue that the local law endangers local businesses, their counterparts in San Francisco, where similar rules are already in place, disagrees that such policies lead to businesses relocating:

Jim Lazarus, the senior vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said more than 90 percent of member businesses already offered sick-leave policies so the new law didn’t change much. “I can’t imagine this burden would be at such a level that a business would relocate based on that.”

While some business lobbies are fighting paid sick days laws, others obviously recognize that the burden is low but the gains for families are tremendous.  Rather than hurting business competitiveness, one study on the likely effects of the Milwaukee ordinance found it would actually save businesses $38 million a year in reduced employee turnover and gains to public health.  Given the popularity of paid sick days and the weakness of their economic arguments, hopefully the Milwaukee lobby will soon give up on their legal fight and work with their employees to improve their families' lives and the public health.

Resources

Paid sick days Milwaukee
Progressive States Network - Paid Sick Days and Family Leave Political Winners
Progressive States Network - Paid Sick Days on Ballot in Milwaukee
Sloan Work and Family Institute - Sick Leave Policies
Institute for Women in the Workplace - Valuing Good Health in Milwaukee: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days