• WisPolitics


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

 11:52 PM 

Milwaukee sick pay measure passes

Milwaukee voters have overwhelmingly approved a binding referendum requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

With 87 percent of the vote in, it was backed by 68 percent of voters with 32 percent opposed.

Milwaukee 9to5 Director Amy Stear, whose group got the measure on the ballot, called it a "great win" that will help with people's health, economic well-being and ability to take care of loved ones who get sick.

"We're very happy for our community and city that families in Milwaukee are going to enjoy a healthier, more economically stable city in the future here," Stear said.

MMAC President Tim Sheehy wasn't surprised by the result, but said it will hurt Milwaukee's ability to attract and retain jobs.

"I don't view this as an advantage in selling Milwaukee as a place to attract and expand jobs," Sheehy said, noting that employers could choose to locate somewhere they would not have to pay the added expense.

Stear countered that San Francisco, which passed a similar ordinance 18 months ago, has seen an increase in jobs since it passed, while surrounding counties have seen decreases.

Under the ordinance, passed through direct legislation, companies in Milwaukee will have to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Accrued sick leave would be capped at 72 hours for workers at large companies and at 40 hours for employees of small businesses.

Sheehy said it will be up to the board, but the MMAC is going to keep open the option of bringing a legal challenge to the ordinance.

Stear said she is confident it will stand up to any legal challenges, but that it would be surprising to see one given the margin of victory.

"We hope that all employers will respect the decision that the people of our city have made," Stear said.

But despite efforts by the MMAC to educate voters about the issue, Sheehy expressed concern they didn't have all the facts.

"I certainly respect the response from the voters of Milwaukee,"
Sheehy said. "My biggest concern is that they didn't have a full set of facts in front of them when they voted.

"The way this is written who wouldn't want paid sick days?"

The measure came about through a process called direct legislation. To make it on the ballot, the group had to collect a minimum of 25,600 signatures. The group handed in an estimated 42,000 valid signatures, Stear said.

Mayor Tom Barrett also opposed the measure.

-- By David Wise

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