Happytown: Mother of all sick-time protests 

Advocates send Mother’s Day video to Gov. Rick Scott urging him to veto House Bill 655

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3.8 MILLION

NUMBER OF U.S. WORKERS ACROSS ALL INDUSTRIES, PRIVATE AND PUBLIC, EXPERIENCING WORK-RELATED INJURIES AND ILLNESSES IN 2011; 226 WORK-RELATED DEATHS IN FLORIDA ALONE

 

8,624

NUMBER OF FLORIDA RESIDENTS WHO HAVE SIGNED ON TO A PETITION ASKING GOV. RICK SCOTT TO VETO HB 655, WHICH WOULD FORBID MUNICIPALITIES FROM ENACTING THEIR OWN SICK-TIME ORDINANCES

 

80 PERCENT

NUMBER OF FLORIDA RESIDENTS WHO SUPPORT EARNED SICK TIME FOR EMPLOYEES.

“MANY WORKERS ARE STILL UNABLE TO HAVE A VOICE ON THE JOB AND TO ADVOCATE FOR BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS. A GOOD JOB IS NOT DEFINED ONLY BY THE ABSENCE OF PHYSICAL DANGER. WORKING PEOPLE DESERVE RESPECT, DIGNITY, GOOD WAGES, HEALTH CARE AND OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW AND TO GIVE BACK TO ONE’S COMMUNITY.”

– FLORIDA AFL-CIO PRESIDENT MIKE WILLIAMS IN A STATEMENT ON MAY 10
Sources: AFL-CIO, signon.org, Public Policy Polling

MAMA, I’M GOING HOME (SICK)

While most of us were dusting off our guilt meters, rushing for a ProFlowers overnight save or a Whitman’s sampler of sweet nothings that might appease our maternal forebears, the earned sick-time advocates at Organize Now instead opted to politicize Mother’s Day in the interest of getting Gov. Rick Scott’s attention. Ever since the Legislature passed its pre-emptive salvo, House Bill 655 – thereby potentially mooting the signatures of more than 50,000 Orange County residents who had petitioned to get sick time on the ballot – organizers have been scurrying to rile up enough public support to back the governor into a veto corner. It’s their only hope, really.

In order to achieve the seemingly insurmountable goal of changing Gov. Scott’s mind – it has changed before, Medicaid – the group sent him a video of various mothers and children holding signs asking for the veto in lieu of flowers. “I’m Every Woman” bleats and bleats, because Whitney Houston, and because “anything you want done, baby,” is going to require a petition, apparently. As of May 13, the group had nearly collected its goal of 10,000 signatures, which will be delivered to the governor’s Tallahassee inbox without chocolates.

So, if you’re following at home, that means that we are now petitioning to save petitions that would allow local democracy to function as it should; meanwhile, in the courts, the case is still open on whether the local county commission was colluding illegally with business interests to thwart the effort and deny the original petitions. (A judge has already ruled that the measure be placed on next year’s ballot, though, if the new law goes through, there won’t be much point in that.) There’s reason to believe the organizers’ charm defense may be working. At a recent event at Nemours Children’s Clinic, several mothers approached the gubernatorial tall drink of clueless and pled their case.

“He said he would consider it and that he would review it and that he wasn’t familiar with the language,” Organize Now director Stephanie Porta says. “He was very polite. He would not let go of their hands.” (Gross!)

Even more promising than that lingering appendage is the fact that among the petitions the group has been gathering, there are a number of Florida Republicans who see HB 655 for the corporate power grab that it is. Or, they just see it as big government.

“As a former Lake Mary City Commissioner I resent the Legislature’s power grab,” somebody named Paul Tremel wrote on the signon.org petition site. (Tremel was elected to that board in 1984.) “My Republican Party believes in local control, not top-down government.”

As Porta points out, it’s interesting that so many people would be engaged at all, considering that their previous engagement on the issue has been effectively shut down by the powers that be, and by groups like Disney, which reported $1.5 billion (a 32 percent increase) in profits the last quarter. This is not your mother’s ballot initiative.

“Honestly, 10,000: For that many Floridians to be engaged in a very wonky veto campaign is pretty incredible,” she says. “It’s not even giving us paid sick days. It’s giving us the right to vote on paid sick days.”

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