WisBusiness: Sick leave supporters call on Milwaukee government to fight injunction request

By David A. Wise


Supporters of Milwaukee’s paid sick leave ordinance called upon the city attorney’s office and the mayor to oppose the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s request for a temporary injunction to delay enactment.

The MMAC’s request will be heard Friday in Milwaukee Circuit Court.

The ordinance, passed by referendum Nov. 4, is scheduled to take effect Feb. 10. It will require employers with more than 10 workers to provide up to nine days of paid sick leave per year to employees who work in Milwaukee. For smaller businesses, the requirement is up to five days per year.

Milwaukee 9to5, the group that led the signature drive to get the binding referendum on the ballot, is defending the validity of the ordinance, along with the city attorney’s office, against the MMAC challenge. In a response filed Wednesday, however, the city attorney’s office said it does not oppose the request to delay enforcement until the legal questions surrounding it are decided by the courts. The filing also noted that the city does not concede any of the MMAC’s arguments against the ordinance.

A group of about 15 people, led by 9to5 organizer Sangita Nayak, delivered a stack of letters and several hundred signatures to Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday urging him to call upon the city attorney’s office to fight the temporary injunction request. An assistant, who said the mayor was in a meeting, accepted the materials for Barrett.

In a press conference before the materials were delivered, Nayak, state Sen. Lena Taylor, Milwaukee NAACP’s Henry Hamilton, MPS Board member Jennifer Morales, Milwaukee County Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Sheila Cochran and former 9to5 director Ellen Bravo urged the city to fight the injunction.

Cochran noted that voters approved the ordinance and questioned why the city attorney and the mayor aren’t defending the will of the people.

“I support and have supported the mayor for a long time, but I can’t understand why his voice … isn’t heard by the people,” Cochran said.

Barrett spokeswoman Jodie Tabak pointed out that the mayor recently met with proponents of the ordinance.

“He respects their position and told them there are legal issues that must be clarified by the court,” Tabak said, adding that he also told them he takes his obligation to enforce ordinances seriously.

She also noted that the city did not oppose 9to5 joining as a party to defend the ordinance, which the court has allowed.