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City pro-worker policies? Many states seek revenge

From Wisconsin to Alabama to Arizona, there has been an ongoing effort to suppress the pro-worker agenda, including efforts to raise the minimum wage and force employers to provide paid sick leave. Until “we the people” get fed up with conservative state governments that turn against local lawmakers, it will continue. I’m telling you, boycotts, protests, and more visible forms of disobedience, or we have nothing.  How bad do things have to get?

The following article was originally posted on Bloomberg.com:

Inspired by decisions in cities like Tacoma, Wash., and Elizabeth, N.J., to require companies to offer paid sick leave, Lauren Kuby, a City Council member in Tempe, Ariz., began pushing a year ago for her city to do the same. By September, Kuby had secured enough support from her colleagues to have the city formally explore the issue.

“I really took seriously Obama’s call to take local action,” says Kuby. “I saw cities as the place to make a difference.”

Then Kuby and her colleagues heard that Arizona’s Republican-controlled state legislature was considering punishing cities that tried to set their own codes for worker benefits. Arizona’s House passed a bill on March 1 specifying that cities aren’t allowed to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or vacation. The state Senate has passed companion legislation that would cut state funds, used to pay for services like police and firefighting, for cities that try to supersede state laws.

“They actually decided to dissolve our study group because they were so chilled by the state threat,” says Kuby.

Lawmakers in Phoenix, Arizona’s capital, say they were inspired to act after the state’s Republican Governor, Doug Ducey, called in his January State of the State address for cities “to put the brakes on ill-advised plans to create a patchwork of different wage and employment laws.” He vowed to do everything in his power to block them, “up to and including changing the distribution of state-shared revenue.” (Arizona municipalities are prohibited from collecting income taxes and rely on distributions from state coffers.)

 Cities “think that they’re an independent and sovereign entity from the state, which is not true—they’re a creature of the state,” says Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, who spearheaded one of the bills. “You can’t put a municipality in jail, nor would we. What we’re really seeking to do is provide a deterrent effect.”

Arizona is one of several states where legislators have moved to stop local officials from trying to pass minimum wage increases or paid leave policies that have no chance in the statehouse. In Alabama, state lawmakers invalidated a Birmingham minimum wage increase to $10.10, from $7.25, in February by passing a law denying cities such authority. Idaho’s legislature passed a similar law in March.

Paid sick leave supporters scored their first win in San Francisco in 2006. Twenty-three cities and five states have enacted sick leave since, most recently on March 9 in Vermont. But such laws have been squashed in Republican-dominated states. Milwaukee voters passed a paid-leave law by referendum in 2008. Following a strategy previously used to block local regulations on smoking or guns, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker invalidated it in 2011.

“Most of us hadn’t paid attention to what had happened in the tobacco world and in the gun world,” says Ellen Bravo, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Family Values @ Work. “We should have paid attention in Milwaukee.”

Restaurant owners have led the opposition to city sick-leave ordinances in Arizona.

“We just ask that they have the ability to choose what regulations are put on their business,” says Arizona Restaurant Association lobbyist Chianne Hewer. “At the state level, while it’s still crazy there as well, you’re able to have one discussion.”

 The current fracas is the latest round in a two-decade tug of war between Arizona’s cities and its legislature over labor rules. Legislators first banned cities from passing their own minimum wage increases in 1997. Voters overrode that law with a 2006 referendum authorizing cities to pass minimum wage and benefits laws of their own. Legislators passed another law in 2013 banning cities from regulating wages and employee benefits, which activists successfully challenged in court, citing the 2006 referendum.

If legislators’ latest proposals become law, Democrats including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton are already promising more lawsuits.

“My message to members of the legislature that do want to micromanage cities and to preempt cities on ordinances and laws that reflect the values of our community,” he says, “is, if you really feel that strongly, run for mayor. It’s a great job.”

The bottom line: Arizona cities that raise wages or mandate sick pay would lose state funding under legislation being considered by state lawmakers.


3 thoughts on “City pro-worker policies? Many states seek revenge

  1. I disagree with the state on this if a city wants to pass a dumbass law and destroy their economy they should let them do it. You socialists just never learn.

    Also, as a business owner who struggles to get by and who is already burdened by you sick wannabe slave owners with tax and compliance out the ying yang! You want money or want to help people go start your own business like I did 20 years ago, from scratch, with nothing.

    People like you are sick. You want everything handed to you on a silver platter then I take all the risk and you want to walk in to my business like some loser school yard bully and shove me around and start cutting checks out of my checkbook. Go to hell! I am not your slave!

    What is left after supporting people like you is for me and my children. Nothing more to give.

    And you and your friends need to.stop thinking like slave owners and more like entrepreneurs.


    1. Angry rants are hard to reply to, so let me make sure I’ve got what you’re saying straight:

      1.) Raising the minimum wage to anything above its current $7.25/hour would destroy the economy.
      2.) Anyone who think the minimum wage should be higher than $7.25/hour is a socialist.
      3.) The government is a “wannabe slave owner.”
      4.) School yard bullies, like me, who think workers deserve a living wage are sick, don’t want to help small business owners–or be a small business owner, steal money from your checking account, want to enslave you, and demand that you–AND your children–support us financially.


      1. To back up, I completely agree that people are being screwed. The problem is that it takes more than wanting to help people to get the job done. You have to realize when you ask for free education and free health care and free housing and free food and to top it off you want to take over my checking account and start spending my money to match your desires, you are the wannabe slave owner. I am not, and do not desire to be a slave owner. I have hired and employed dozens upon dozens of men and women over the years and it has all been done via their free will, and mine.

        In an exchange economy, with a high degree of division of labor, by setting a minimum wage you condemn anyone whose skills are valued at less than your minimum wage to starvation, or at best the unemployment line and welfare. That is why welfare is required when a socialist government takes over the factors of production/business and implements minimum wages, employment taxes, regulations, runs shitty public schools, etc., etc. The reason poverty, inequality and unemployment exist to the degree it does is our socialist form of government. That is a fact. And, you want more.

        Who are the bullies and who are the wannabe slave owners; 1) the 6th grader who gets a newspaper route and cuts lawns on the weekend, 2) the group of children that enlist the biggest thug in the class to beat him up and steal his money for them, or 3) the big thug who does the dirty work for a cut of the action? You are part of group 2, the government is group 3, and I am in number 1, and I am sick and tired of hearing all this bullshit about how our free market economy is the problem. That is so far from the truth and the facts it would be laughable if it were not getting so serious.


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