Union Coalition Scores Victory on Sick Days, But At What Cost?

Milwaukee, meet Detroit. Last Thursday, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals lifted an injunction on a 2008 voter-approved measure requiring businesses to provide employees with up to nine sick days per calendar year. It may now head to the Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. If the Court’s decision is not overturned, businesses with 10 or more employees will be required provide nearly two weeks of paid sick time to their employees.


The measure, pushed by 9to5, as well as a “multi-state consortium” of unions and other left-wing activist groups, was passed in 2008, but had been held up under an injunction due challenges in the way that the ballot was worded, as well as the argument that the measure “pre-empted by state and federal laws, impaired existing contracts and exercised police powers invalidly.”

According to BusinessWeek:

The 3-0 ruling overturned a lower court’s decision that said the ballot question didn’t contain enough information about the ordinance. The appeals court decided that the question did indeed comply with necessary requirements and did not violate state statutes or other prohibitions.

The law allows Milwaukee workers at private companies to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees could take up to nine days of sick leave each calendar year. Businesses with nine or fewer employees could cap the maximum paid sick leave at five days per year.

A press release from “familyvalues@work” (the consortium), claims that momentum is building nationwide for paid sick days.

A historic decision by the Wisconsin State Court of Appeals yesterday to uphold a Milwaukee city law that provides paid sick days to workers is building momentum nationwide for growing campaigns in cities and states to pass paid sick days laws that benefit working families, public health and the economy.

In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and iConnecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies.  Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, DC have passed paid sick days laws.

“The economy is changing, the workforce is changing and workers need policies like paid sick days to stay in their jobs and care for their families,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national consortium of state organizations advocating for paid sick days, paid family leave and other family friendly workplace policies. “At a time when corporations are seeing record profits, no worker in America should have to choose between taking care of a sick child or loved one and losing a job or a paycheck.”


Hey, Joe, remember that vacation time you had? For businesses of 10 or more employees, especially small businesses, the sudden increase of providing nearly two more weeks of paid time off to employees will come at a cost. While some companies may be able to increase their prices, other may not. As a result, those companies may be forced to choose between lowering the amount of vacation time provided to employees or, if possible, moving out or Milwaukee altogether. If they do, who could blame them?

According to union attorney Barbara Zack Quindel, based on San Francisco’s experience in passing a similar measure, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

“San Francisco’s situation shows there aren’t detrimental effects to this,” 9to5 lead lawyer Barbara Zack Quindel said. “People in Milwaukee knew what they were doing when they passed this.”

Did they? We’ll soon see. If nothing else, when more industry leaves Milwaukee, there’ll always be jobs to be had plowing the streets and working the food courts at Summerfest.

Photo Credit: Voces de la Frontera


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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