Monday, March 28, 2011

WI GOP assault on paid sick days overrules local decision-making

The right-wing attack on working Wisconsinites continues on this week at the state Capitol building. This time, it’s about municipal control over extending rights to workers for sick leave.

In a puzzling twist, legislative Republicans have shifted their dynamic regarding local rights on the issue. It’s not about local control for Wisconsin’s conservative lawmakers. The longstanding argument that centralized governments (even on the state level) simply want to control your lives is one that should no longer be argued by Republicans in the legislature, given their recent actions on this and other issues related to workers’ rights.

The latest assault on working individuals is up for vote soon. Assembly Bill 41is set to be debated upon, with a public hearing scheduled for this Wednesday around 10:30 AM at the Capitol in Madison. The bill would remove the rights of municipalities (PDF) to provide for their employees extended sick days in certain medical circumstances.

An ordinance passed in Milwaukee in 2008 granted both public and private employees one hour of sick leave for every thirty hours of work they performed, not an unreasonable amount of leave. It also extended sick days to cover certain conditions that the state didn’t recognize, such as mental illnesses or preventative care.

Yet for Republicans in our state legislature the move would be too much. Despite their usual call for local control over the business of municipalities, state Republicans are attempting to command what city and local governments can or cannot decide for their citizens residing in their borders.

What’s ironic here is that the controversial budget bill that was passed recently was justified solely by Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies to give local governments more control. But it seems that, when local control defies the intent of conservative philosophy, it’s no longer relevant – and must be remedied, in the eyes of the state GOP.

Should city and local governments have ability to extend paid sick days? Of course: if the City of Milwaukee wants to extend medical leave rights for its citizens, the state shouldn’t interject. The only time the state should meddle in the business of a local government is when it fails to adhere to the standards the state has already set up, not when it goes beyond them. When a municipality decides that they’d like to go above the state’s requirements in a positive direction, the state shouldn’t intervene but rather allow that municipality to do so, perhaps even encourage them to do so if they’re willing to carry the burden.

Scott Walker and legislative Republicans are wrong for attacking this right, wrong for limiting what governments can do in this instance. They should remove the bill from consideration, and reaffirm the right of municipalities to have some local control – otherwise, they should refrain from using that talking point in all future debates.

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