Groups in Orlando and Miami are working to get earned sick pay for low-wage workers. (Photo by Anders Adermark)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Two large cities in Florida are working to get earned sick pay for low-wage workers.

Progressives in Orlando have been gathering hundreds of signatures for weeks now in the hopes of getting mandated earned sick pay on the November ballot. It’s been an uphill climb, and business groups have already launched legal challengers.

However, another large city in the state is taking up the same cause. Groups in Miami announced yesterday that Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan will introduce legislation mandating earned sick pay for workers in Miami-Dade.

This same group of people successfully passed a wage theft ordinance in the county not too long ago.

This could be significantly easier than what groups in Orlando are facing. Ballot initiatives are notoriously difficult to do. Groups must gather a very large amount of signatures, which requires a lot of time, manpower and money.

In Orlando, groups are working hard to get these signatures in time.

The Orlando Sentinel reported:

Results of a poll released Monday show heavy support for the initiative among Orange County voters. The poll commissioned by Citizens for a Greater Orange County found that 67 percent of residents likely to vote in November support the measure, while 26 percent oppose it.

Support is stronger among minorities, women and young voters, according to the poll, which claims a 4.4 percentage-point margin of error among 500 people surveyed by phone a month ago.

If approved by voters, the initiative would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide paid time off to employees who are sick or caring for a sick family member. Both full- and part-time employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 37 hours they work, to a maximum of 56 hours per year.

Employers with fewer than 15 workers would not have to provide paid sick time but could not penalize those who take unpaid time off when they are ill.

A little more than a week ago, business groups in Orlando filed a lawsuit challenging the ballot initiative before it even gets on the ballot.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the big business in the region also plans on spending $2.2 million on an opposition campaign.

But opponents filed a complaint Wednesday asking the Orange Circuit Court for an injunction to stop [the ballot initiative]. The plaintiffs named in the suit, including the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce, the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association and the Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando, contend the ballot language is misleading …

If successful, the legal challenge would void more than 35,000 petition signatures that workers’ rights advocates have spent months gathering.

While that dispute heads to court, the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce’s parent organization — Stuart’s Central Florida Partnership — also is developing a strategy to fight the initiative if makes it on the ballot.

The Huffington Post reported that a new study from advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers-United Miami (ROC) says “40 percent of Miami-Dade restaurant employees who worked sick admitted coughing or sneezing while handling food, an alarming statistic made worse because 74 percent of those who did work sick said they could not afford to take the day off without pay.”
ROC is among the groups asking Miami-Dade commissioners to pass an ordinance requiring that low-wage workers earn sick pay.
According to the Huffington Post:

The ROC study doesn’t offer language for proposed Miami-Dade legislation in terms of hours or days, but does recommend any compensation be given at the rate employees would typically earn by working their shift — with tipped workers paid at a rate commensurate with their total average daily wage.

Earned paid sick days are not mandated by any law in Florida.