- By Sen. Karen Keiser
At the start of the legislative session, the leaders of the Republican majority vowed to focus on education, jobs and the budget. As we learned earlier this week, they’ve struck out famously on education. And I’m here to tell you today that they’re doing no better on jobs.
I think the Republican majority found out quickly that it’s much harder to create jobs and lift an economy out of recession than it is to talk about it. So instead of proposing bills that actually create jobs, they’ve taken a bunch of bad bills they’ve had sitting around and renamed them jobs bills.
There’s just one problem: their bills wouldn’t create jobs, they’d erode jobs — and the middle-class families that depend on them.
One bill, for instance, would create a new sub-minimum wage to pay even less to the employees and families for whom every dollar counts the most. Another bill would let employers get away with paying their employees less than required by law. Another bill would unilaterally slash pensions for public employees across the state. Two other bills would roll back prevailing wage laws and enable businesses to hire lower-wage workers for higher-skill jobs. And a bunch more bills would roll back worker compensation benefits for employees who suffer serious long-term injuries. Two other bills would block local governments from requiring businesses to provide basic benefits like sick leave to employees who work within municipal limits.
The Republican majority somehow calls this job creation.
I call it a war on middle-class employees across the state.
Many of these bills are right out of the ALEC playbook. ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a corporate-funded organization that meets behind closed doors with conservative elected officials to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. You could think of them as the political arm of the “1 Percent.” It’s the muscle they flex every time they get a craving to pad their wealth by reducing the wages and benefits earned by the hard-working middle class employees across our state and our country.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Numerous Republicans in our Legislature are members of ALEC task forces.
What I can’t figure out is why the Republican majority is so hell-bent on cutting someone else’s pay. These are tough times. We’re just coming out of a recession and our middle-class men and women and their families need every dime. The last thing anyone should be trying to do is take food off someone else’s table.
Instead, we should be helping our middle-class households. That’s why, while Republicans propose to cut back on sick and medical leave for employees, we have proposed expanding health benefits for those on the job. My Senate Bill 5292 would provide partial paid leave to employees who need to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. It’s about helping people with jobs, not hindering them.
The Republican majority is right when it says we need jobs. But we need real jobs, not a snow job.
This was strike two for the Republican majority. Will the budget be strike three?