Ted Bobrow

By The People, For The People?

By - Jun 17th, 2009 11:10 am
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The headline in Milwaukee’s Paper of Record declared that Judge Thomas Cooper had ruled Milwaukee’s Paid Sick Leave unconstitutional.

Of course, careful reading of the story and of Judge Cooper’s opinion reveals that he only had a problem with a detail of the ordinance that required it to apply to employees who need time to deal with “issues of domestic or sexual abuse or stalking” which he found expands the definition of sick leave beyond what is generally accepted.

So why throw the baby out with the bath water?

Both the city and the 9to5 organization which led the effort to enact the ordinance asked Judge Cooper to allow the rest of the ordinance to become law if he rejected any part of it but he chose to ignore that advice.

Cooper claimed that his hands were tied since invalidating any part of the ordinance interferes with the will of the people and calls the whole ballot initiative into question.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce challenged the paid sick leave measure in court after it was passed by the voters by a nearly 70 percent majority.

9to5 has promised to appeal though the city has yet to indicate its intention. A rally in support of the ordinance is scheduled for City Hall today at 12:30.

Nothing symbolizes our national identity more than our self-image as the World’s Leading Democracy. You may recall that our nation was founded on the principle that government’s authority derives from the consent of the governed.

It may seem pretty, err, self-evident, but back in the 18th century, when most nations were ruled by monarchies, that idea was nothing short of revolutionary.

Today even the most authoritarian dictatorships claim their legitimacy comes from the will of the people. The People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, etc. You get the idea.

This week, the world’s attention is drawn to Iran where people are organizing to protest an election that appears to have been rigged. We have witnessed similar uprisings in Poland, the Soviet Union and The Philippines over the course of the last several decades.

It may seem a bit of a stretch to compare revolts against tyranny to the fate of a referendum in favor of paid sick leave.

But the will of the people was crystal clear and the objections oblique and easily dispensed with.

Time will tell whether our democratic ideals win the day or if our imperfect system once again bends to the will of special interests.

0 thoughts on “By The People, For The People?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    In this fragile economy, the last thing this city needs is another reason for current and prospective businesses to say no to Milwaukee. The sick-leave ordinance is just one more burden business owners in the city need to carry, one that just may send jobs to the suburbs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    With all due respect, Mr. Zimmerman, the lost jobs argument doesn’t outweigh the enormous benefit that this minimal requirement would provide for Milwaukee workers and their families.

    First of all, many employers already offer this benefit. Second of all, many of the so-called low-wage businesses like restaurants and retail shops benefit from locating where the population density is greater.

    And third of all, Milwaukee has been struggling to come up with a silver bullet that will help keep our young people here and avoid the so-called brain drain.

    Maybe we should focus our attention on improving the lives of the citizens who are already here and spend less time constructing fancy museums or bronze idols (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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