Friday, April 15, 2011

WI GOP ignore their ideology in restricting MKE paid sick day policy

Bill prevents municipalities from extending rights beyond state standards

Originally posted at

There seems to be no level too low for Republicans to stoop to, even disregarding their own belief structure, in order to appease their corporate benefactors.

The GOP in our state has made it clear that they intend to make Wisconsin a corporatist state, where “big business” can “live” without concern over pesky laws designed to benefit workers and consumers. Whether through removal of bargaining rights for public employees or simply raising taxes on the working poor, Wisconsin Republicans have made it clear: the “shared sacrifices” we all have to make need not apply to corporate elitists.

The disrespect for workers’ rights transcends even some of the core principles of the Republican Party itself -- such as the belief in local autonomy versus central government.

The latest example of this is a bill passed recently by the state legislature that limits the rights of municipalities to grant workers in their jurisdictions more paid sick day benefits, a direct response to an ordinance passed by Milwaukee voters in 2008. The measure, which voters overwhelmingly endorsed by a 2-to-1 margin, gave workers additional rights, including use of sick days for mental health issues, health problems for family members, as well as a greater number of paid sick days for the calendar year. After being held up by legal challenges, the ordinance was finally ready to be implemented.

That is, until Republican legislators took action to preempt it from being carried out, in Milwaukee or elsewhere. In clear defiance of the people of Milwaukee’s own wishes, the state legislature passed a bill this week restricting any municipality in the state from granting additional paid sick day benefits beyond the state’s predetermined levels.

One has to question the current incarnation of state Republicans, “Whatever happened to local control, from the importance of keeping ‘big government’ out of the business of local communities beyond Madison?” It seems that meme only matters to Republicans when it works to their advantage (or when it restrains their corporate campaign contributors in some way). When a locality caters to the ideological stances of the GOP, conservatives flaunt it as a perfectly fine defense of local autonomy. But any time a local government tries to extend rights to its people – as Madison once tried to do with minimum wage increases – Republicans insist that government MUST extend its hand in the matter to “correct” the situation.

The GOP can’t have it both ways: either they stick up for local autonomy, even when it thwarts their wishes, or they admit it’s all a farce, a belief designed to carry out their agenda when it’s politically beneficial for them to do so (but worth ignoring otherwise).

Milwaukee residents deserve to receive adequate paid sick leave benefits. They did, after all, vote for and pass a law granting all who work within their city limits rights that went beyond the state’s minimum requirements. Whether they agree with the policy or not, it’s the City of Milwaukee’s (or any locality’s) prerogative, not state Republicans’, to determine how far those requirements should extend, if at all, beyond the laws already in place.

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