Florida Gov. Rick Scott Preemptively Blocks Paid Sick Leave
4:24 pm, June 26th | by Grace Rasmus
Imagine learning that your favorite restaurant doesn’t provide paid sick days for its employees. This would mean that criminally underpaid chefs and servers would have to come to work every day, even if they’re sneezing up a storm, in order to make ends meet. Pretty gross, right? Even when sanitation is not an issue, not providing paid sick days is ethically unsound. If a worker or their child is sick, should they really be forced to choose between their health and their paycheck?
Studies have shown that most Americans would be in favor of requiring businesses to provide paid sick days to workers. According to Public Policy Survey, 65 percent of Floridians surveyed would fully support this.
Despite the fact that a majority of his constituents support the measure, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) just signed a bill that will block local governments from implementing paid sick-leave. He made this decision quickly, using only four of the fifteen total days available to review the bill before striking it down. Workers’ advocates are furious since Scott’s signature blocks a sick-leave proposal being considered in Orange County.
Florida is just the latest in a string of states which have all blocked paid sick-leave bills. According to records with the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenStates.org, preemption laws backed by the restaurant industry have recently passed in at least six other states: Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee; all were signed by Republican governors. Worker’s rights advocates point out the irony of Republicans backing such laws since they are based on the non-conservative principle of letting state governments tell local counties what they can and can’t do.
Florida’s preemption was supported by Disney World and Darden Restaurants, which owns the Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurant franchises. Other restaurant trade groups have supported Scott, claiming local sick-leave mandates would kill jobs.
However, the negative side effects predicted by sick-leave opponents have failed to materialize: San Francisco, the first city to enact a sick-leave bill, saw both employment and the number of businesses grow in the years following its implementation.
The U.S. is trailing other developed countries in the provision of paid sick-leave. (And other important things.) According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 40 percent of American workers do not get paid sick-leave. Most of these employees work in low-wage industries such as retail or restaurants.
Sick-leave supporters have found some success in getting mandates passed on the state and local levels, but those measures are now being undone or blocked by preemption bills, many of which also block local living-wage ordinances.
“These bills are really hurting workers, in addition to taking away local control to decide what’s best for communities,” Vicki Shabo, of the National Partnership for Women & Families, told the Huffington Post. “It is a concern, but it’s also a symbol of the progress we’re making.”
Also, as Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) recently noted in an interview, most of the lawmakers deciding the fate of vacation and sick-day legislation already enjoy paid leave themselves.