ALEC in Wonderland, An Act In Two Plays (Part 2)

By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger

“The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that do not require employers to offer at least some paid holidays.”

-Rebecca Ray, Mila Sanes and John Schmidt, No Vacation Nation (Center for Economic and Policy Research, May, 2013)

The leisure and hospitality industry in Central Florida employs over 216,000 people, more than 20% of the entire Metro Orlando workforce.  These are primarily low-wage jobs, with few benefits. Hotel maids, for example, earn a median wage of $9.20 per hour.  It is estimated that 81% of the lowest-wage workers have no ability to earn paid sick time.  Nationally, a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded that 37% of working women (some 13,000,000) in companies with more than 15 employees cannot take a paid sick day if they or a family member are ill.  Among employed Latinos (a quickly growing demographic in Orange County, Florida), 49% lack access to any paid sick leave.

The combined effect of low wages and no benefits means that on any given day tens of thousands of Metro Orlando workers must decide whether to go to work sick, send a sick child to school, or stay home without pay and even risk termination of their employment.  In May of 2012, a coalition of Orlando activists began a citizen’s initiative to mandate that private employers in Orange County with 15 or more employees provide workers with up to 7 days of paid sick leave each year.  That effort has generated two lawsuits to date and the quick adoption of an ALEC-inspired state law preempting the Orange County initiative.

Play Two-Orlando

The Orlando initiative required a minimum of 22,000 voter signatures to submit the proposal to the Orange County Commission, which could then either adopt it as an ordinance or place it on the ballot for the next general election.  Organizers procured over 50,000 valid signatures before presenting the paid sick leave proposal to the Commission, seemingly guaranteeing that in the worst case it would be on the ballot for the November, 2012 election, an election in which Pres. Obama was predicted to easily carry an increasingly Democratic Orange County.

But the referendum didn’t happen.  Instead, following a contentious Orange County Commission meeting on September 11, 2012, commissioners voted 4-3 to postpone a referendum due to expressed concerns over the allegedly “confusing” language of the proposal.  Proponents quickly filed suit to overturn the Commission vote, but were unable to secure a ruling prior to the November election.  In February of this year, however, a rare three-judge panel of the Orange County Circuit Court unanimously ruled that the Commission had violated its own charter by failing to either adopt the proposal as presented or submit it to the voters.  The ruling was blunt. If the Commission “can delay for an indefinite period of time a vote on an initiative,” the judges concluded, it would render “voter initiatives an illusory provision.” The panel ordered the Commission to place the proposal on the next general election ballot. The victory was decisive, but for the fact that that the next general election in Orange County is the primary election in August of 2014.

While the suit against the Commission was pending, members of the media filed open records requests for copies of emails and text messages by Commission members during the September meeting.  The resulting disclosures have produced another suit charging the Commission with violating Florida’s Sunshine laws.  It appears that during the course of the September meeting, Commissioners were secretly fielding and responding to text messages from lobbyists opposed to the paid sick leave proposal, including Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, a member of ALEC and the parent company of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other chains.  Discovery in that case has also revealed that several days prior to the Commission meeting, Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver texted a friendly Commissioner requesting “at least one good faith straight face test reason to at least delay it long enough to keep if off the ballot in November.  After that, the Legislature can deliver the kill shot.”

The “kill shot” has been delivered. House Majority Leader  and ALEC member Steve Precourt from Orlando introduced a bill in January modeled on the Wisconsin preemption statute. The final version enacted on May 2, 2013 is even broader than the Wisconsin act. CS/HB 655 prohibits any political subdivision in the state from mandating the provision of employment benefits not otherwise required by state or federal law.  In addition, it prohibits the local adoption of any ordinance requiring the payment of a minimum wage other than a state or federal minimum wage, thereby preempting so-called “living wage” ordinances as well.

As of this writing, Gov. Rick Scott has not publicly announced whether he will sign or veto the legislation, but the betting is that it will become law.

Walt Disney World, which employs over 53,000 workers in Central Florida, strongly lobbied in favor of the preemption legislation, even refusing to accept a petition signed by over 6,000 mothers requesting that the company reconsider its position on paid sick leave. A few weeks ago, Disney announced that its profits for the first quarter of 2013 had increased by 32% to $1.5 billion. 

Sources: Ben Markeson, “Orlando would be first in South to require paid sick time,” People’s World, May 18, 2012; “Alec in Florida,” (, 2012; David Damron, “GOP state lawmakers aim to kill local sick-time measures,” Orlando Sentinel, January 6, 2013; David Damron, “Judges order Orange to put sick time on next ballot,” Orlando Sentinel, February 15, 2013; Brendan Fischer, “Efforts to Deliver ‘Kill Shot’ to Paid Sick Leave Tied to ALEC,” PR Watch, April 3, 2013; Jim Stratton, “Orlando jobs machine cranks out low pay,” Orlando Sentinel, April 7, 2013; Harry Bradford, “Disney World Fights Against Paid Sick Days For Florida Employees, Huffington Post, April 27, 2013; David Damron, “Amid huge profits, activists slam Disney fight against paid sick time,” Orlando Sentinel, May 8, 2013; David Damron, “Judge will review ‘textgate’ messages privately,” Orlando Sentinel, May 21, 2013; Kristen Gwynne, “One Quarter of Americans Don’t Get Paid Days Off,” AlterNet, May 29, 2013). 

21 thoughts on “ALEC in Wonderland, An Act In Two Plays (Part 2)

  1. Thanks for your research Mike A.

    The freeloaders who have perpetuated an assault on “the public good” a.k.a. “the common good” for about a century now, have camouflaged themselfs and put the blame on the middle class and poor as they have plundered us:

    During the nineteenth century, in response to the dominant belief that public interest would be best promoted by grants of special privilege to private persons and to corporations, the Federal Government, by gift, or sale for nominal sums, alienated in fee simple, and without reservation of public right, the major portion of the public domain.

    This basic privilege was supplemented by further federal grants in the form of patents, subsidies, banking powers, and tariffs. In the twentieth century this process has continued by means of federal grants of exclusive rights to exploit particular sectors of the public domain: hydro-electric sites (Federal Water Power Act of 1930); radio, wireless, and television channels (Federal Communication Act of 1934); public highways (Motor Carrier Act of 1935); and airways (Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938).

    The states, following the same theory, granted corporate charters of extreme laxity; municipalities granted perpetual or long-term franchises of exclusive character.

    In general, the recipients of these privileges were given practically a free hand in respect to organization, finance, and price policy.

    They [corporations] followed the historic behavior pattern of all holders of special privilege and the final result was monopoly, exploitation, and political corruption.

    (The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics, “The Passing of The Public Utility Concept”, by Horace M. Gray, 1940; emphasis added). Gives new meaning to “wicked politics” and economics.

  2. So Gus, you’re not even in favor of requiring employees be provided a safe work environment? What happens when a bank makes a loan to an iron worker, but he dies or gets seriously injured on the job because his employer didn’t want spend money on safety equipment; what happens to that loan? Do you suppose the insurance companies should pick up the costs? No interference between employer/employee would also mean no worker’s comp. There’s more to the economics of gubibimint interference in labor relations than meets the eye.

    This issue, however, is about paid sick leave for employees, many of whom are in the service industry. Me, I’d prefer it if a restaurant worker stayed at home if they got sick rather than have them drag themselves into work because they can’t afford to take the day off, or because they afraid of getting fired. With viruses becoming more deadly and communicable, there really is a public health component to this issue.

  3. Mike A,

    Mr. Word Press, the resident censor, does not know spam from tenderloin, so there may be more comments afoot that appears here.

    I know of at least one caught in the propagandasphere:

  4. Happy employees mean greater returns for the company as a whole…. ALEC wow….. Oliver Twist was really before its time…. Les Miserable….. Cake please….

  5. Most workers in the industrialized world have benefits like paid sick leave, 4 weeks vacation and other benefits that American workers lack. We in America have been so propagandized by the notion of the “American Dream” that we don’t get the fact that most American workers are overworked and underpaid, compared to the rest of the industrialized world. The vile, greedy people who’ve banded together as ALEC care more for their profit margin than for those who work for them.

    Important contribution Mike A. By the way isn’t the greater Orlando area very conservative, if so it would make the support for sick days even more interesting? I’ve always believed that the individual State Governments, were even more susceptible to corruption than the Federal Government. Since we are both residents of Florida I think we know that influence from ALEC are understandable in the context of Florida politics.

  6. Gus, paybacks can be a real B, Suppose the next time you’re at a restaurant or you and your kids are at your favorite Disney park, some worker that couldn’t afford to take the day off because they are sick (not sure what it is yet so I’ll just go to work), has a nice friendly interaction with you and/or your kids. Ahh sorry about that, you just got some nice fancy tropical disease that might put you or your kid 6 feet under.

    Or should they just eat cake?

  7. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    You’re interfering with the Kochs creating and consolidating a serf class, Mike A.!

    And by shhhhhhhhhhh, I mean shout it out loud.

  8. ALEC is a most insidious organization supported by those who would enslave the American workforce. Their goal is to keep as many American men, women, and children clothed in rags, close to starvation, and uneducated as possible and thus living lives of desperation that ensures an acceptance of their continued enslavement.

    Like a mutating virus, ALEC is the name of the latest strain that reemerges in every generation with a new immunity to the vaccination that was supposed to rid society of the disease they carry.

  9. ALEC is a most insidious organization supported by those who would enslave the American workforce. Their goal is to keep as many American men, women, and children clothed in rags, close to starvation, and uneducated as possible and thus living lives of desperation that ensures an acceptance of their continued enslavement.

    A mutating virus, ALEC is the name of the latest strain that reemerges in every generation with a new immunity to the vaccination that was supposed to rid society of the disease they carry.

  10. OS,

    Thanks … are you drinking lots of liquids? I mean it … drink water with a bit of orange juice in it … so much that you feel like you’re floating away … every day for the next week or else I’ll come out there and beat you with my quiver full of wet noodles.

  11. They do not want workers. They want slaves. And they will bust your will until theirs is busted.

  12. Mike S.:

    You are correct regarding the dominance of ALEC in the Florida legislature. I believe that there are at least 40 legislators who are members, including the sponsors of the preemption bill. Seminole County is still strongly Republican. However, the demographics in Orange and Osceola counties have swung in favor of the Democrats, in large part due to the huge influx of Latinos during the past 15 years. In fact, Latino voters are now a majority in Osceola County.

    Although it was beyond the scope of the comment, ALEC is organized as a 501(c)(3) entity, which means that membership contributions are tax deductible. That also means, of course, that it is prohibited by law from lobbying. That it has been able to retain its status as a charitable organization is mystifying to me.

  13. “Although it was beyond the scope of the comment, ALEC is organized as a 501(c)(3) entity, which means that membership contributions are tax deductible. That also means, of course, that it is prohibited by law from lobbying. That it has been able to retain its status as a charitable organization is mystifying to me.”

    Mike A.,

    It’s good to hear about Orange and Osceola Counties, as you know that’s way North and a world away from me in South Florida. As to why ALEC is allowed to get away with being tax deductible, it’s a mystery to me. Sort of makes you think that the IRS investigation of the Tea Party organizations might have been an example of good law enforcement.

  14. Blouise,
    I am sloshing when I walk. I have drunk so much orange juice, I have citric acid burns. Going to call my PCP and get a chest x-ray and some blood tests later this week to see what is going on down there if I don’t get better.

  15. Having labor laws differ for each county in a state is an unworkable mess for any company that employs people in multiple areas. it must be on at least a state level to be consistent and plannable for businesses.

    That said labor laws should be fair. In theory, though not always in practice, if all employers were required to pay the same minimal levels of wage, holiday, and benefits the cost is generally equal between copetitors who then just pass the cost onto the customers. The problem can arise when those costs passed along to consumers become so great the consumer abandons the industry.

    For example: If McDucks and Burger Queen restaurants are situated next to each other it really does not matter if a new minimum wage law increases the cost of their simulated cheeseburger by 13 cents because both now cost the same higher amount. But if the cost goes up by $5 consumers stop eating there and eat real food at home.

    Another issue might be the consumer still shops at the business but buys lower cost items, which can also affect the profitability of the business and make it more vulnerable.

    On a larger scale it can create situations where businesses in some states lose out in commerce with other states due to wage and benefit differences .

    Yet, despite all this, my state has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. Our economy here hasn’t failed.

  16. I dont think government should mandate employee compensation but you would think a big company like Disney or Red Lobster would have benefits for their full time people.

    But being a part time worker should be a temporary job as you get skills to do something which will pay a good wage.

    When I was young and working in pizza parlors and restaurants washing dishes 20 hours a week, I didnt expect vacation pay or any other benefits. Those jobs are for people entering the job market as young people or the unskilled until they can do something better.

    Instead of getting the employers to put up money for health care, vacation pay, sick pay why dont they pool their resources if they all put in one hour a week into a mutual aid fund that would be 9.20x4x216,000 = 7,948,800/month after 1 year they would have $95,385,600 in the bank. I think that is probably going to be enough to cover 7 sick days/year for everyone and to provide help with other things as well. The interest alone would cover 7,405 people for 7 days of sick time per year. Maybe employers would match funds, $40 bucks/month isnt a big deal and then you would have close to $200,000,000 in your fund and that is serious money.

    I imagine people dont do this, something that was commonplace in the 19th century, is because of all the government regulations.

  17. Mike S.:

    I agree that the IRS should have given all of the Tea Party applications very thorough scrutiny, unless, of course, you believe that a guy with a beard and a tri-corner hat running around with a don’t tread on me flag has educational value.

  18. Can someone send in a list here of Florida politicians who take money from ALEC? If any are close by the dogpac will go poop in their yards.

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