Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Annette Taddeo have re-introduced legislation to restore local governments’ power to set worker wages, benefits, and earned sick time. SB 304 / HB 6031 would repeal Florida Statute 218.077, language signed into law in 2013 by Governor Rick Scott.
The initiative was backed by powerful corporate interests and in direct response to a citizen-led initiative in Orange County to place earned sick time on the ballot. The law invalidated the forthcoming 2014 referendum, and the voices of the over 50,000 voters in Orange County who signed a petition for the opportunity to vote on the issue. Though the election results were preempted by this law, local voters overwhelmingly approved of the earned sick time measure in 2014.
“COVID has fully exposed the health, economic and racial disparities facing minority communities today,” Rep. Smith said. “Now more than ever, Florida workers need access to sick leave benefits and living wages so they never have to choose between going to work sick or staying home without pay. HB 6031 puts power back in the hands of local governments closest to the people to determine local sick leave and living wage policies that best meet the unique needs of their communities.”
Coronavirus has exacerbated many harsh and long-standing inequities in our state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Latinx people are suffering disproportionately higher infection and death rates from COVID-19. Black workers also make up the majority of essential workers in several sectors, including food, agriculture, and industrial, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute report. These already vulnerable workers are frontline heroes who put their health and safety at risk to protect ours. Yet despite their incredible sacrifices, many of these workers earn minimum wage, without access to earned sick time, hazard pay, or death benefits.
“It is unconscionable that Floridians who work full-time, year-round, still live in poverty,” Sen. Taddeo said. “SB 304 would help millions of families in Florida by preventing the state from preempting local governments the ability to increase wages to make decisions on what’s best for their communities.”