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Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 08:57 AM PDT

Fight Voter Suppression in Orlando

by ellenbravo

This is what democracy does NOT look like:

Hundreds of community activists, faith leaders, business owners and others in Orange County, Florida, identified the need for workers to earn paid sick days as a critical way to keep jobs and boost the economy. They scrupulously followed all the rules. That included spending weeks gathering signatures, enough to have 50,000 verified. Opponents placed numerous hurdles in front of them; they cleared every one. The Earned Sick Time initiative was set to go on the ballot.

And then their opponents, led by lobbyists for multi-billion dollar corporations such as Disney and Darden, decided this democracy thing wasn’t going to go their way. Polls and op eds and letters to the editor, the buzz in grocery stores and bodegas, beauty salons and church pews, show public opinion favors the ordinance.

After all, no one wants to lose their job or paycheck for being a good parent to a sick child or following doctor’s orders when they themselves fall ill.

And no one wants to be served flu with their food.

So what’s a big lobbyist to do?

First they tried a lawsuit. The courts just threw that out.

Then they tried to push Orlando Mayor Teresa Jacobs to keep the measure off the ballot. Even though she opposes the Earned Sick Time measure, the Mayor understood that citizens in her jurisdiction followed the proper processes, and that she could not stand in the way.

The special interests’ next move was to try to muddy the waters, add a second contrary ballot initiative that would undo the Earned Sick Time measure, even if it passed. This method comes courtesy of the group ALEC, a shadowy collaboration between corporate lobbyists and state legislators that produces model legislation such as the notorious Stand Your Ground law along with bills to attack workers’ rights and suppress the vote.

The pre-emption move didn’t work either. But the special interests did get a slim majority of the Commissioners to commit a shocking abdication of responsibility. According to the Commission’s charter, the elected officials’ job was clear: within 30 days, approve the initiative themselves or turn it over to the voters to decide in the next election. Period. No other legal option exists.

Instead, by a vote of 4-3, the Commission chose to hire an outside attorney to suggest revisions to the ballot initiative language and bring those back to the board Oct. 16. That would be almost a month past the deadline printing the ballot.

The execs at these giant corporations all earn paid sick days. So do every one of the Commissioners -- thanks to taxpayer dollars.

It’s hard to understand why they don’t want the workers who serve food, take tickets at attractions and clean hotel rooms also to be able to earn paid time off when they’re sick. But if that’s how they feel, the democratic process allows them to say so loud and clear.

What it doesn’t allow is for them to steal the democratic right of voters to decide for themselves.

As Marion Washington, chair of Citizens for a Greater Orange County, put it, “Earned Sick Time enjoys more than 80% support among Hispanics and African Americans.  By silencing these voices, commissioners have pulled the curtain back on an ugly political system where there is one set of rules for special interests and politicians – they all have earned sick time – and another for the hardworking families that make Orange County a premier destination for travelers the world over.”

You Can Help

Here’s what you can do to support democracy in Orange County:

Call, email, Facebook and tweet the commissioners demanding them to follow the law and refer Earned Sick Time to the ballot. You can get their contact information here:
http://orangecountyfl.net/

For those who have family, friends or organization members living in Orange County, please show up at the Commission meeting on September 18 to stand up for democracy.  

They can’t steal our votes – and they can’t steal our ballots.

Discuss

The right wing relies on an old method of deception:  repeat something often enough and people will begin to accept it as fact.

And when the media acts as a conduit for delivering this message without verification, false truths spread at a rapid pace.

A new media study by two academics reviewed the use of the term “job killer” in major media outlets going back to 1984. They found the number of news stories alleging that some government reform would be a “job killer” increased by 1,156% between the first three years of the George W. Bush administration and the first three years of the Obama administration.

Not only did the media repeat the right’s rhetoric, nine out of ten of these stories (91.6%) failed to cite any evidence for the claim. The allegations were targeted at policies like paid sick days and other measures intended to safeguard consumers, protect the environment, raise wages, expand health insurance coverage, increase taxes on the wealthy, and make workplaces safer.

The study, “Job Killers” in the News:  Allegations without Verification, by Professors Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher R. Martin of the University of Northern Iowa, also analyzed the sources for such allegations. In three-fifth of the stories (60.3%,), the source was a spokesperson for big business or Republican party official. Nearly another fifth (17%) used the phrase in an article or editorial without attributing it to any source at all.

“By failing to seek to verify allegations made about government policies and proposals, the news media typically act more like a transmission belt for business, Republican, and conservative sources than an objective seeker of truth when it comes to the term ‘job killer’,” Dreier and Martin reported.

The Power or Journalism

The authors cite Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, who point out that verification is “the essence of journalism.” It is what separates journalism from propaganda, “which selects facts or invents them to serve the real purpose: persuasion and manipulation.”

Dreier and Martin’s study showed the “significant ripple effect” of this irresponsible practice across the news media. A single allegation of “job killer” from a prominent news source like the Associated Press can snowball into thousands of results in a Google search.

“Allegations without Verification” has already gotten lots of press coverage including on NPR, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress, Media Matters and other outlets around the country.

We need to make sure the mainstream media reads it as well – and takes stock of what we hope are inadvertent efforts to be a mouthpiece for the right.

Discuss

The National Federation of Independent Businesses loves to wrap itself in the flag of neighborhood Mom and Pop shops when it lobbies on Capitol Hill, but many small business owners maintain the NFIB’s agenda doesn’t address their priorities, and say the lobbying group even fights against policies that small businesses need. As Reuters recently reported, “the NFIB uses the politically valuable mantle of small business to pursue an agenda that may take its cues from elsewhere.”

Listen to Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who identifies the NFIB as a “‘small-business pretender’ and ‘lapdog’ of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” in the Reuters article.

Or take it from Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Live Music, a café and music venue in Elhurst, NY. “They disguise themselves as mom and pop shops,” says Castiblanco. “But they don’t speak for me.”

Reuters details the NFIB’s record of lobbying for issues that benefit big businesses, not necessarily small ones: “Consider a widespread state tax loophole that lets big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot transfer income to out-of-state subsidiaries. This loophole often allows the chain retailers to pay no state income tax, while small businesses do. Yet the NFIB has fought against closing such loopholes.”

Reuters also referred to New Jersey cabinetmaker J. Kelly Conklin, who in April wrote this in the Hill: “Whether we’re talking about health care or taxes (or both at the same time), NFIB always seems to side with the big fellas – big insurance, big banking, big business – not little guys like me. Why? I don’t know.”

For more information, see the piece Family Values @ Work published together with Democracy Strategies, titled: “The National Federation of Independent Business? Driving a far-right political agenda far from the needs of small business.”

As that document points out, the NFIB in 2010 received a gift of $3.7 million from Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS – a contribution which a Wall Street Journal opinion piece described as part of a “trial run” at what Crossroads called “funding the right,” adding that Crossroads CEO Steven Law considered the initiative “money well spent.”

The appreciation was mutual. In that same year, the NFIB reported paying more than $3 million for “advertising services” to Crossroads Media LLC, a Virginia-based firm that does media placement for American Crossroads and shares office space with a number of other Super PACs.

Figures for 2011 and 2012 are not yet public.

The NFIB has also been far from independent in its allocation of PAC money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly 94% of NFIB’s PAC contributions went to Republicans in 2010. This election cycle, the figure is closer to 98%.

NFIB leadership is deeply rooted in conservative Republican politics. The organization’s president, Dan Danner, served as deputy director in the White House Office of Public Liaison under Reagan. Chief lobbyist Susan Eckerly worked in George W. Bush’s Labor Department. And the group recently retained Mark Warren, former chief counsel of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, as a lobbyist.

Yet small business owners are much more diverse in their political views. According to a New York Times blog, in a poll of small-business owners commissioned by American Express OPEN, respondents were nearly evenly divided among those identifying as Republicans (33 percent,) Democrats (32 percent) and independent or unaffiliated (29 percent).

Who speaks for small business? Many voices – but not the NFIB.

Discuss

Thu May 10, 2012 at 08:57 AM PDT

The Gifts Mothers Really Want

by ellenbravo

My favorite Mother’s day gifts from my sons were their original stories, songs and poems. But what I needed when they were infants and toddlers was something children can’t deliver:  affordable time off when they were born and when they were sick.

So for all those candidates and elected officials interested in the women’s vote and eager to prove their support for motherhood and families, here’s a sampling of what mothers want and need, not just one day a year but every day:

The right to care for a sick child or personal illness without losing our paychecks or our jobs. Moms need leaders to actively support the right for workers to earn paid sick days and champion local, state and federal policies that would guarantee this protection. Make sure no one has to choose between being a good parent and being a good employee – and that no one has to serve you flu with your soup.

The right to coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Half of private sector workforce employees aren't covered by this law because they work for an employer with fewer than 50 workers, haven't been on the job for at least 12 months or work less than 25 hours a week. Moms need Members of Congress to work to expand FMLA to cover all employees after 90 days of employment.

The ability to afford leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Many who are covered under FMLA can't afford to take the time without pay.  As a result, nearly three million eligible workers a year who need leave to care for their health or the health of a loved one don’t take it. And nearly 9 percent of those who do (including 20 percent for low-income families) are forced to rely on public assistance to keep food on the table. Moms need leaders to voice their support for policies to create family leave insurance funds like those that are working in California and New Jersey so that caring for a new or seriously ill child doesn’t trigger financial catastrophe.

The right to care for one's partner regardless of their gender. Being able to marry who you love - and being able to care for one another in sickness as well as in health – shouldn’t be a gift, it should be a right.  Moms are glad to see more of our leaders standing up for the rights of all families by supporting marriage equality legislation and bills to expand FMLA access to same-sex partners.  

The right to attend children's school activities. Far too many children in this country never see their mom at a school play or sporting event because employers won’t let them take off work or re-arrange their schedules.  Mothers need leaders to support the right to use family leave to do what’s best for raising our children.

A recognition that men are parents, have parents and also need time to care. All the policies listed above are gender-neutral.  Moms – and dads – need leaders to end on-the-job punishment of men who want to be good fathers, sons and husbands. That will also boost women’s efforts to get men to share the work at home.

This list flows from deeply held American values: that no one should have to risk a job to be a good family member or put a loved one at risk in order to keep a job. Mothers want basic standards that guarantee these rights to everyone.

And candidates, if you don’t believe me, check the polls. More and more voters – from all political perspectives – say they’re more likely to support candidates who'll make sure family values don't end at the workplace door, and who understand that for the economy to recover, we need policies like these to help people stay employed and have money to spend at local businesses.

Doing the politically smart thing for moms is also doing the right thing for families and for our nation.

Discuss

Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM PDT

Stop the War on Mothers

by ellenbravo

I love the image of conservatives hiding behind the flag of motherhood to protect themselves against charges of gender insensitivity. It’s like kids who move the couch to cover up a stain and hope no one will notice.

By all means, let’s talk about the importance of motherhood.

We can start with the right to stay home after giving birth. Rush Limbaugh recently ranted that women have much more flexibility at work than men.

Unlike Rush, I like to begin with the facts.

The United States is one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t ensure new mothers can afford to stay home even for the briefest of times after they have a baby. Not surprisingly, millions of American mothers who’ve given birth go back to work before the six weeks needed just for healing. The majority of new mothers return before 12 weeks.

Why? For many, because they’ll lose their job otherwise. We have two laws protecting new mothers. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says an employer can’t fire someone for being pregnant but doesn’t have to hold her job for her while she recovers from birth.

Really.

The other, the Family and Medical Leave Act, does protect the jobs of mothers and fathers who take leave to care for a newborn– but it excludes half the workforce because they work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, haven’t been on the job long enough or work part time.

And did I mention the leave is unpaid?

In fact, nearly half of employed mothers receive no pay whatsoever for the time they’re out on maternity leave. Of those who do draw some pay, most are using time they’ve accrued, like vacation.

As anyone with a newborn knows, having a baby is a great joy, but it is definitely not a vacation.

And what about when a child falls ill? More than two-fifths of all workers, three-quarters of low-wage workers, don’t have a single paid sick day. Nearly half of those who do can’t use the time to care for a sick child.

In other words, when the school calls and says your child just threw up and you must come pick him up, women all over the country risk losing a day’s pay -- or worse, their job -- for being a good mom. Many of those women work for multi-billion dollar restaurant or nursing home chains, home health care agencies or child care centers.

Because when women do for a living the work that mothers do in the home – feeding people, taking care of the sick or the elderly or the very young – they’re usually paid very little and provided few if any benefits.

Ask those guardians of motherhood why the workers who care for our young children earn less than those who care for our cars or our pets; and why domestic workers and home health care workers are excluded from protection of most labor laws.

Conservatives oppose every policy to correct these injustices – family leave, paid sick days, expanding labor law protection, equal pay laws.

If you really want to know how conservatives feel about motherhood, take a look at what they say when women who happen to be poor want to stay home to take care of their kids. Right-wing pundits and politicians blast these mothers as lazy and irresponsible people who refuse to work and should be forced to do so, no matter what job, what pay, what shift.

“We should ask that all adults participate in work activities to their fullest ability,” Governor Romney has said.

And by “work,” he doesn’t mean feeding or cuddling or playing with their young ones.

I’m all for honoring mothers. Let’s start by making sure they’re not punished for doing that job well, and that the fathers of those children are allowed to share in the joy, and work, of caring for them.

Discuss

Experts like to talk about cost-benefit analyses. Badly needed reforms to inefficient systems may cost money, but often the benefits from that change far outweigh the costs.

What gets overlooked is the cost of NOT implementing reforms.

Take the Affordable Health Care Act, which is celebrating its second anniversary. Offsetting the costs to reform our health insurance system are a multitude of benefits.

Children with pre-existing conditions are no longer frozen out of insurance plans. Families trying to cope with the pain of a dreaded illness for a child or spouse no longer have to face bankruptcy or lose a home because of running into lifetime limits on cost reimbursements. Young adults can stay insured long enough to finish college and launch a career. People all across the country will now have access to preventive care services, including life-saving mammograms and colonoscopies, without being charged a deductible or co-pay.

Women in particular benefit from the new law, including support for nursing mothers, maternity coverage, and an end to the outrageous practice of allowing insurers to consider C-sections and domestic violence “pre-existing conditions” that can be excluded from coverage.

And starting soon, women won’t be forced to pay outrageously higher amounts for health insurance just because of their gender. A new report by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) documents the gross disparities. In states that haven’t banned the “gender rating,” women were charged more in 92 percent of the best-selling health plans.

Experts can quantify the actual costs when these reforms are not in place – costs in health outcomes, in family economics and for the economy overall when people have less disposable income. For example, the price tag for the differential in how women and men are charged? A billion dollars.

It’s harder to put a price on the stress and heartbreak that accompany the lack of basic fairness.

What’s also harder to quantify is the degree of blatant sexism behind these practices.

Take the issue of charging women higher rates. Insurers actually have a justification for this. Claims show that women ages 19 to 55 tend to use more health care services, they argue. That means women are more likely to go to the doctor, get regular checkups and take the medicine they’re prescribed.

The NWLC report challenges the insurers’ rationale because of the range of disparities among insurers. In Arkansas, for example, NWLC co-president Marcia Greenberger pointed out that one health plan charges 25-year-old women 81 percent more than men, while another plan in the same state charges only 10 percent more.

But even if we take the insurers at their word, isn’t this behavior what we want everyone to practice?

You don’t have to be an expert to know that getting regular check-ups and following through on what the doctor prescribes helps keep you healthy or recover more quickly. Aside from helping people feel better, these are the practices that cut down on health care costs! Stopping high cholesterol, for instance, is much less expensive than hospitalization, surgery and follow-up care for someone who has a heart attack.

In just the same way, allowing workers to earn paid sick days will help people get well faster, prevent more serious illness, and detect problems earlier – steps that will help cut down on the insupportably high cost of health care in our country.  These cost savings, estimated by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, amount to upwards of $1 billion a year in healthcare costs, including more than $500 million in tax-dollars!

We should care about costs. But let’s make sure the definition includes the high cost to families, the economy and our nation of failure to bring the workplace into the twenty-first century.

Discuss

Paid sick days are good for our economy, according to numerous studies by seasoned economists.  That’s why Americans in cities and states across the country from all parts of the political spectrum support this policy.  

The same policy is under fierce attack by big corporate lobbyists, whose job it is to protect the top 1% of society – folks who, of course, already have paid sick days.  In their attempts to scare small business owners and the public, the corporate lobbyists have created a whole new math system to justify their position.  

The abra-ca-dabra arithmetic practiced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, (NFIB,) one of the Big Six corporate lobbies, is simply about pulling numbers out of a hat and daring to call it economics.

The NFIB is currently peddling a so-called “study” in Massachusetts, proclaiming that proposed legislation allowing workers to earn paid sick days in that state would cost huge amounts and be a disaster for small business. Legitimate research estimates the legislation would save businesses in that state upwards of $348 million and save hospital emergency rooms another $22.7 million, including $13.4 million in taxpayer-funded public health savings.  

As economists have pointed out about a similar tome produced in Philadelphia, the NFIB document rests on incorrect facts and flawed assumptions. Here are a few examples:

•    False Assumption #1: The NFIB assumes each employee who gains paid sick days will use every day provided to them. The document’s own footnote acknowledges that the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Center for Disease Control estimate much smaller numbers of usage - 3 days (BLS) or 3.8 (CDC). Also, in a random sample of employees in San Francisco, which has had similar requirements in place since 2007, employees used a median of 3 days per year. Researchers say workers tend to view the time as an insurance policy, saving the days they earn for when they may need them most.
•    False Assumption #2:  The NFIB includes in additional wages the cost of health insurance – but those costs are fixed and do not vary with work hours.  They will be unaffected by new PSD coverage.
•    Convenient Oversight: Perhaps most outrageous is the refusal of the NFIB to look at the other side of the equation – how much employers save from increased productivity, lower absenteeism when co-workers don’t catch the sick employee’s germs, reduced turnover when workers aren’t fired for following a doctor’s orders. A 2009 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects s a $348 million annual benefit to Massachusetts employers if the earned paid sick days law were instituted.

Who does the NFIB really work for? While the group claims to represent Mom and Pop shops, it has never lobbied on behalf of bills small businesses really need – such as halting the expansion of big-box competitors that drive out Main Street businesses, or curbing the many tax policies that local activists say give national retailers an unfair advantage over independent small companies.

In fact, the NFIB is underwritten by far-right groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. According to the Wall Street Journal, American Crossroads gave the NFIB a hefty $3.7 million before the 2010 election – money Rove’s group considered “well spent.”

If the NFIB cared about the economy and small businesses, they’d have to acknowledge that job retention policies like paid sick days help reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy.  They’d recognize that jobs are lost when worker do NOT have paid sick days, as shown by a report from the National Opinion Research Center, which finds that 23% of workers are fired or threatened with being fired for taking time to care for personal or family illness.

And they’d admit that in San Francisco, which last year was named one of the best cities in the world to do business by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than two in three businesses support the local law and six in seven report no negative impact on profitability.

You can call the latest output from the NFIB many things – distortions, misinformation, hocus pocus.

What you can’t call it is a study.

In these tough economic times, no one should have to lose income -- or worse, lose their job -- because they get sick, but this is just what happens all the time. Paid sick days is a commonsense measure that will help get our economy moving again by making sure hardworking men and women can hold onto their jobs, support their families and have money to spend to sustain local businesses.

Business owners across Massachusetts support paid sick days because it’s a good policy for their workers, their customers and their bottom lines. The NFIB is another corporate lobby that continues to show it is out of touch with business and the economy.

Discuss

Name a country where large numbers of women legally earn less than minimum wage and have to drag themselves to work sick or risk losing their job.

To all the places that come to mind, add the United States of America.

The workers in question are employed in one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in our economy: the restaurant industry.  And while revenues have been increasing even during the economic downturn, now amounting to $635 billion a year, the federal minimum wage for servers is $2.13 an hour and 90 percent of employees have no paid sick time.  More than 7 in 10 of the workers affected are female.

The problems for women in these jobs are being highlighted in a report released today, 2/13 – a date that matches the industry’s artificially low minimum wage. “Tipped Over the Edge” was prepared by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, a smart and strategic group started ten years ago among Windows on the World employees who were not working when the World Trade Centers collapsed to improve the rights and livelihoods of restaurant workers in New York and across the country. ROC partnered on the release with a dozen groups, including Family Values @ Work.

Many people think of tipped workers walking out the door each night with pockets filled with cash. In reality, servers -- the largest group among all tipped workers -- experience almost three times the poverty rate of the workforce as a whole, according to the ROC report. Like child care workers who can’t afford child care and health care workers who are uninsured, our nation has large numbers of servers who have trouble putting food on the table – nearly twice as many rely on food stamps as the rate of the general population.

As the report points out, the restaurant industry is one of the only sectors in which predominately male positions have a different minimum wage than predominately female position: “In many sectors, lower wages for women are often a product of discriminatory employer practices but in the restaurant industry, lower wages for women are also set by law.”  The law in question is the tipped minimum wage.  

National Restaurant Association Takes Credit for Inequality

How did this happen? Lobbyists for the National Restaurant Association – the same folks who are pouring money into attempts to defeat paid sick days initiatives – worked behind the scenes to convince the House Committee on Education and Workforce to exclude tipped workers from the bill increasing the minimum wage. We know this because the NRA bragged about it in their trade publication, which reported that “at the behest of the NRA,” the committee gave “industry trade groups much of what they wanted.”

ROC points out that these lobbyists enriched the coffers of committee members by $90,000 in the two-year period before the bill was passed.

In addition to statistical analysis of the problems female restaurant workers face, “Tipped Over the Edge” is filled with powerful stories of the women in these jobs. In each case, the women report that they’ve gone to management to ask for decent treatment.

June Lindsey, for instance, a server in Detroit, describes working at a Popeye’s with a bad cough and fever. As the mother of young children, Lindsey says, “I could not call in sick because no work meant no money, and I couldn’t afford it at that time.” But as the day went on and her symptoms got worse, she asked the manager to let her leave so she didn’t make others sick.

The response? “She laughed and told me ‘try not to cough then.'”

Policy Solutions

Fortunately, ROC has also identified high road employers. “Taking the High Road: A How-to Guide for Successful Restaurant Employers,” is a recent publication that highlights a number of the employers ROC works with and the practices that make them successful:  providing livable wages; maintaining a healthy workplace through paid sick days, vacation, or health insurance; and creating career ladders for employees through training and internal promotions policies.

While working to increase the number of high road employers, ROC and its partners are also calling for public policy changes to end the inequalities and barriers to economic security that are rampant in the industry today. Among the recommendations in today’s report:
•    Raise and index the federal subminimum wage for tipped workers to at least 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, and raise and index the federal minimum wage for all workers as well.
•    Establish a national standard that allows workers to earn seven to nine job-protected paid sick days each year to be used to recover from their own routine illness, access preventive care, or provide care for a sick family member.

The report also calls for ongoing sexual harassment training, job-training programs, and worker protection from violations of federal, state, and local equal employment opportunity laws.

For the full report, visit:  http://rocunited.org/...

Then send a letter to your representative in Congress & tell them to support WAGES, H.R. 631, legislation that will increase the tipped minimum wage to ensure that working women and families have the resources they need to not only survive but to thrive in today’s economy.

Discuss

The group that led the fight for paid sick days in Milwaukee has filed an ethics charge against a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, after learning that he had accepted free legal services worth tens of thousands of dollars from the same law firm that appeared before him to argue against paid sick days in Milwaukee.

Shortly after 68 percent of Milwaukee voters passed a paid sick leave ordinance in 2008, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), represented by Michael Best & Friedrich, filed a lawsuit to overturn the new law.  When the case reached the Supreme Court in October 2010, Justice Gableman voted in favor of the MMAC, to uphold an injunction prohibiting implementation of the sick days ordinance.  

Unbeknownst to 9to5, between July of 2008 and June of 2010, Justice Gableman had accepted the free legal services from Michael Best & Friedrich to defend himself against charges of misconduct by the Judicial Commission and before the Supreme Court.  Those charges stemmed from a Willie Horton-type ad Gableman used in 2008 against his opponent for the Court, the incumbent and only African-American justice.

Had Justice Gableman recused himself from the paid sick days case, the 3-3 judgment which deadlocked the Supreme Court would have been avoided. Without Gableman’s vote, a 3-2 Supreme Court majority would have overturned the injunction, enabling more than 120,000 Milwaukee families to receive paid sick days.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Judicial Commission against Justice Gableman when they learned of the free legal services. The new complaint by 9to5 Milwaukee -- representing a group of Wisconsinites directly hurt by decisions in cases where the Justice should have recused himself -- went to another body, the Government Accountability Board. The complaint alleges the Justice violated the state code of ethics and. seeks a full Board investigation, civil penalties and referral to a District Attorney for criminal prosecution.  

“Justice Gableman has compromised the trust of the Wisconsinites he was elected to serve,” said Dana Schultz, Director of 9to5 Milwaukee, which led a large and diverse coalition in the fight for paid sick days. “By not disclosing his acceptance of this valuable gift and by not recusing himself from the decision on sick leave, Justice Gableman undermined the ability of voters of Milwaukee to receive a fair and impartial hearing before the court.”

Tonisha Howard, a mother of three who lives in Milwaukee, described what the lack of paid sick days has meant in her life. “Because I needed to take my two-year-old son to the emergency room for a severe asthma attack, I lost my job,” said Tonisha. “Having paid sick days would’ve let me keep my job and support my family without needing additional assistance.”  Following the loss of that job, Tonisha has had to work two part-time jobs, neither of which offers paid sick days.

“If Justice Gableman had recused himself from the case, as he should have, hard-working Milwaukee families would have had the paid sick days they needed and voted for,” Schultz said.  

A leading national expert on judicial ethics affirmed the extent of Justice Gableman’s impropriety. “It is hard not to see the fee agreement between Justice Gableman and the Michael Best & Friedrich firm as a thinly disguised gift,” said William Hodes, in a letter to the Government Accountability Board that accompanied 9to5’s complaint.

In addition to seeking a civil fine and forfeiture for failure to disclose the gift, Hodes said the Board  may make a criminal referral for the other violations to the appropriate prosecuting authority. Such a penalty, Hodes notes, “may be especially appropriate in this case in order to deter future similar assaults on the impartiality and integrity of the courts.”  

For coverage of the complaint, see
http://www.jsonline.com/...
http://host.madison.com/... and
http://wispolitics.com/....

Discuss

This time last year, Desiree Rosado, a school bus driver in Groton, Connecticut, was dreading flu season. "Working without paid sick days, you're always worried about what will happen if you get sick," she said. "When my kids caught the swine flu, I missed a week of pay to stay home and take care of them, and I'm still paying off the credit card bills I racked up.”

But as of January 1, Desiree and hundreds of thousands of other Connecticut workers will begin to earn paid sick time under a new statewide paid sick days law – the first in the nation. She’ll be able to use that time if her kids are sick, if she herself falls ill, or to see a doctor for preventive care. In the process, Desiree says she’s gained “real peace of mind.”

For Desiree and workers across Connecticut, paid sick days are one immediate way to see real economic relief, even in the aftermath of a severe recession.

As someone who drives children safely back and forth to school every day, Desiree Rosado knows another benefit of paid sick days. The new Connecticut law, which applies to workers in the service sector, means those who serve our food and care for the young and the frail will not have to put the public at risk when they’re ill.

"No one should have to choose between their family's health and their job, and no one should get fired just for getting sick," said Jon Green, Executive Director of Connecticut Working Families, a member group of Family Values @ Work Consortium and lead organization in the broad coalition which helped win this new law. "Beginning this year, hundreds of thousands of service workers will be able to earn paid sick days that so many of us simply take for granted. This is an important but modest step towards a smarter, healthier Connecticut."

Research confirms that the lack of paid sick days exacerbates the impact of a health crisis. According to a report by the Institute for Women's Policy research, during the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak of 2009, 8 million Americans came to work while infected with the virus, infecting another 7 million people in the process. Environmental health specialists have documented how loss of pay can influence workers to show up on the job even when they have vomiting or diarrhea.

Green also emphasized the benefits of the law as a common sense victory for working people. “Now more than ever,” Green said, “we should seize every opportunity to strengthen conditions for people working so hard to support their families.”

Connecticut’s win was the first of three in a row last year for paid sick leave proposals. Philadelphia City Council passed a measure a month after Connecticut. Although the mayor vetoed that law, the Council later voted 15-1 for a version that applies to businesses who receive contracts or subsidies from the City. Philly’s coalition plans to re-introduce the broader bill soon. And Seattle City Council overwhelmingly approved a bill adding that city to a growing list of places which recognize the value of ensuring workers can afford to stay home when they’re sick.

2012 will see a wave of similar campaigns across the country – because workers are desperate for relief and because small business owners and policymakers are increasingly seeing paid sick days as a modest step with significant impact that keeps people employed, at a time when holding on to a decent job is especially critical.

According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, 72% of Connecticut resident support the paid sick days law. Hart Research Associates found a similar majority believe that tough economic times is exactly the right time to introduce such protections. They agreed with the statement that “workers are vulnerable now and cannot afford to lose income or risk being fired simply because they have the flu or a child needs medical care.”

To get involved in the campaign for paid sick leave in your community, visit www.familyvaluesatwork.org

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Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 08:00 AM PDT

Contagion: Not Just a Movie

by ellenbravo

What’s most frightening about the movie Contagion is that it’s NOT science fiction.

Flu epidemics are real, and they can spread quickly – especially in the United States, where 44 million people without paid sick days are forced to choose between their financial security and their health when they get sick.  During the recent H1N1 outbreak, seven million people caught the flu from their co-workers who came to their jobs when they were ill.  

Who are the people who work sick?

They’re workers like Tasha, a grocery store cashier and single mom in Seattle, whose upper respiratory infection lasted three weeks because she couldn’t stay home to recover. “I cannot afford to lose a day’s pay,” Tasha says. “So if I have to choose between going to work sick and having money to keep the lights on and food in my fridge, then I have to go to work sick.”  

Or Terry, a school bus driver in Massachusetts, who has no choice but to drive that bus if she’s sick.  When her son, who has a chronic, life-threatening illness, stays home from school, Terry cannot afford to be there to care for him either.

Tasha and Terry are among the five workers depicted in the web short, Contagion: Not Just a Movie. All of them have had to work sick. All are active in the fight for paid sick days.

Most working families are counting every dollar right now.  For many of us, taking unpaid time off, even when we’re sick, means falling short on rent or not having enough to put food on the table.  Losing even three days’ pay for many families amounts to a month’s worth of groceries.  

Even those of us who have paid sick time come in contact every day with workers like these who don’t – at the grocery store and restaurants, shopping malls and boutiques, childcare centers, nursing homes and beyond. We all have a stake in winning paid sick days.

The good news is that support for paid sick days is growing – and by getting involved, you can help ensure workers don’t have to make the awful choice between their health and their families’ security.  This June, Connecticut passed the country’s first statewide law. Seattle City Council just overwhelmingly approved a paid sick days bill in that city. Philadelphia City Council will vote on a measure in October. Denver voters will be able to support paid sick days on a ballot initiative there this fall.

You can be part of winning sick days.  Please sign-up to get involved at www.familyvaluesatwork.org.  

Together, we can help prevent a real Contagion.  

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