The Sick Leave Ordinance As It Relates to Transit
John Michlig has an excellent post up about the sick leave ordinance at his blog, Sprawled Out. He eloquently describes the reason such a law is necessary and exposes some of the distasteful politicking going on in the southwestern Milwaukee suburb of Franklin over a counter-ordinance to Milwaukee’s which would prohibit any such mandate in their fair city.
My personal opinion of the sick leave ordinance is mixed. I fully support the idea of giving workers time to take care of their families, but I think the political climate of the outlying suburbs towards this ordinance provides an object lesson in ideology run amok. The city is stepping up and providing a much needed safeguard for its workers by allowing up to 5 days of paid time off in the event of illness. Every surrounding suburb is chomping at the bit to prove how pro-business they are, setting up an unnecessary contrast between the city proper and the suburbs.
The ordinance is right, but because it only covers the city it allows the surrounding areas to exploit the city’s pro-labor attitude. This relationship of scavenger/host is apparent in the funding of our respective school systems and the county’s transit policy. The city is slowly picked apart by lower-taxed, lower-density suburbs that draw workers farther and farther away from the city and its downtown corridor where most of them work and play. This leads to policies that encourage more and more driving since the sprawl keeps efficient transit options from becoming viable in any area other than the immediate areas around downtown. But since workers living in the suburban areas think they’ll derive no benefit from enhanced transit options, but shoulder the enormous tax burden of a half cent sales tax, no plans move past planning and the entire region stagnates as other, smaller cities around the country move forward with ambitious plans that recreate their cities into more livable and efficient places.
For the sick leave ordinance to work it needs to be enacted in a way that would discourage this scavenger/host relationship. Maybe once the policy is enforced and businesses realize the sky won’t fall, other communities will come around to the idea that policies that are good for workers can be good for businesses. But until regional cooperation is more than an idea, Milwaukee will have to shoulder the burden of doing what’s right in spite of the suburbs.