By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
State lawmakers want to stop local sick pay measures, such as the ones that gained support in Orlando and Miami last year.
Progressives in Orlando and Miami tried to get their respective counties to mandate earned sick pay for workers this year. Right now, many workers in the state do not have access to earned paid sick time.
In Orlando, county commissioners intentionally stalled to prevent a sick pay measure from getting on the November ballot, even after groups were able to gather the thousands of signatures needed to put the measure to voters.
In Miami, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted down a proposed sick pay ordinance.
A legal fight still rages over what happened in Orlando, but some state lawmakers want to prohibit any sick pay law from being considered anywhere in Florida.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, say the proposed sick-time measures now being considered in Orange and Miami-Dade counties could put those counties at a competitive economic disadvantage. They argue that such policies should not be adopted patchwork-style across Florida.
“The discrimination that would occur to employers only in Orange County is so significant, we would need to have a statewide solution to this issue,” Simmons said.
The argument against sick pay measures has been that it would cost businesses more money, which in turn would cost a county or city jobs. This is why big large corporations including Disney and Darden Restaurants heavily lobbied against Orlando’s proposed ballot measure.
Progressives around the state, however, have seen support from the public on this issue.
Last year, the GOP-led state Legislature — and Simmons specifically — tried to block another worker-friendly measure that local governments were considering.
In 2012, Simmons introduced a bill that would prohibit Florida municipalities from “adopting or maintaining” local ordinances that crack down on wage theft. Wage theft is known as the practice of not paying workers out of money they are owed.
In South Florida, wage theft was a growing problem. Progressives in Miami-Dade County lobbied the County Commission to pass a wage theft ordinance that gives employees recourses if they are stiffed by their employers.
Simmons’ bill didn’t make through it the legislature, but it garnered support from business lobbies and ire from progressives and labor groups.