WisBusiness: Judge lets 9to5 join defense of Milwaukee sick pay ordinance

By David A. Wise


The group that conducted the signature drive to get Milwaukee’s pending sick leave mandate on the Nov. 4 ballot will be allowed to join the city in defending the ordinance against a legal challenge from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

MMAC had opposed the motion to allow 9to5 to join the suit.

But Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John DiMotto noted that the referendum would never have been on the ballot but for 9to5’s efforts.

“I can think of no entity, not even the city, that has an interest so strong,” DiMotto said.

He added that due to 9to5’s central role in the process, “they are in the absolute best position to defend this piece of legislation,” and noted that the city itself agrees it may not be able to adequately represent the group’s concerns.

DiMotto also ruled he will allow an association of five construction trade groups to submit a brief in support of the MMAC’s legal challenge.

A hearing on whether to issue an injunction blocking the enactment of the ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 6.

Voters approved the binding referendum enacting the ordinance with 69 percent of the vote.

DiMotto issued his ruling after a hearing in which MMAC attorney Louis Olson argued 9to5 should have no role in the suit. He said the MMAC was challenging the implementation and validity of the ordinance, which rests with the city, and not 9to5’s role in the process.

“Their time in this process is over,” Olson said.

He also argued that the city can provide adequate representation and that by allowing 9to5 in, the court may be inviting more parties to join and make the case unmanageable.

But the city argued for 9to5’s inclusion. Deputy City Attorney Linda Burke said 9to5 drafted the ordinance and was in a better position to defend the rational basis for enacting it. Burke noted that the ordinance had not gone through the usual legislative process and the city attorney’s office issued legal opinions that questioned the validity of the ordinance that could affect its ability to fully represent 9to5’s interests.

“We freely admit we don’t adequately represent the interests of 9to5,” Burke said.

Richard Saks, who represents 9to5, said that by shepherding the legislation through the process, the group had a unique role in bringing the ordinance to fruition and the group’s members would be directly affected by the outcome in the case.

In other news regarding the sick leave ordinance, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce pledged today to raise $10,000 for the MMAC’s legal fight and to work to prevent similar legislation from passing in Waukesha.

“Our priorities in regards to the Sick Leave Policy are two‐ fold: join the fight to reverse the anti‐business ordinance; work proactively to make sure such ill‐minded efforts don’t advance in Waukesha County,” said Patti Wallner, president of WCCC, in a statement today.