Massachusetts Sets the Bar on Sick Leave
President Obama, at the Boston Labor Breakfast yesterday, announced that federally contracted employees are now to provide sick leave for their employees. The policy sounds very much like the “Earned Sick Time” law that Massachusetts voters passed, overwhelmingly, in 2014.
Indeed the President praised that legislation in his remarks, putting Massachusetts in the spotlight again as a liberal leader for the nation.
There are other similarities -- political ones -- too, between the President’s executive action and the Massachusetts referendum that passed the sick time legislation. Both actions were taken because the Legislators refuse/d to legislate.
When Legislators Won’t Act
Congress is almost hopelessly gridlocked, with an obstinate opposition-led majority hoping to undermine the President through endless obstruction. And, the Republican party is generally against labor interests, like sick time or increased minimum wage, and so it no surprise that it hasn’t taken action on these issues.
The Massachusetts Legislature, on the other hand, with a Democratic supermajority in both chambers, has the power to move whatever policy its leadership and members deem worthwhile and productive for the Commonwealth.
And rhetorically, Democratic legislators and politicians routinely align with labor and speak the language of a shared economy with worker rights and protections.
Yet, earned sick time legislation -- proposed every session for the last 10 years -- never once even made it to the floor. Despite the opinion polling showing the policy as extremely popular, business lobbyists’ opposition held sway on Beacon Hill: No action would be taken on sick time, not by the legislators!
Because legislators in Congress won’t act, the President took executive action.
Because legislators on Beacon Hill wouldn’t act, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition took Earned Sick Time to the ballot.
When the President praised Massachusetts for being a national leader on sick time for workers -- commonsense, progressive policy -- remember, Legislature was not the leader.
It was the activists, organizers and voters who led when Beacon Hill wouldn’t.
Raise Up 2015
A year after the landslide voter referendum on earned sick time, we find the Legislature again playing hands-off on needed, important matters of policy: REVENUE and TAXATION.
Our Massachusetts tax structure has been unfair for years, and, since tax cuts over a decade ago, we have had a revenue shortfall, leading to ongoing “belt-tightening” and budget cuts, sacrificing the Commonwealth’s future. We can’t have the Commonwealth we want when we’re not investing in it.
And still -- Legislature has repeatedly refused to address the structural problems in our state’s finances or the inequity in our tax code.
When Legislators won’t act, we must act.
By asking Massachusetts millionaires to pay their fair share in taxes (they’re not), we can once again, finally, start re-investing in Massachusetts communities and infrastructure.
This year, the organizers and activists of the Raise Up MA coalition are taking the issue of unfair taxation and inadequate revenue to the people.
When legislators don't legislate, it's up to us. Together we can make important changes, as we did in 2014 with earned sick time, and Massachusetts again can be a national progressive leader -- leading from the grassroots.
From drivers to data jockeys to signature collectors, there’s all kinds of ways -- tell us what you can do, and together, we will make this happen!