OLYMPIA — State Senate Republicans, who have already proposed repealing the state’s never-implemented family-leave requirement, are now targeting Seattle’s sick-leave law.
The law, which took effect in September, requires businesses with at least five employees operating in Seattle to provide paid sick leave to workers. Seattle is one of three major cities in the United States to have the law.
Senate Bill 5728 would take Seattle’s law off the books by declaring that the Legislature has the sole responsibility for sick-leave requirements. Senate Bill 5726 would scale back Seattle’s law by prohibiting cities from requiring sick leave for employers based outside the city.
Both bills were introduced Tuesday by Centralia Republican John Braun and are supported by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina.
No Seattle senators have signed on.
Braun said his main problem with Seattle’s law is that it is affecting businesses that are based outside of Seattle, but do some business there. In addition, he said, “if this is a good idea, it’s a good idea on the state level, and this is a statewide program, and that’s the Legislature’s purview.”
“These are all nice ideas,” he added. “But we can’t afford every nice idea. We have to be realistic.”
The move would be similar to one made is Wisconsin in 2011, when Republicans repealed a Milwaukee sick-leave law.
Officials in Seattle and Olympia blasted Braun’s proposals.
Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, who sponsored the city law, called the proposed bills “a violation of trust in the democratic process.”
Democratic State Sen. Karen Keiser, ranking member of the Health Care Committee, went further, calling the proposals “an in-your-face kind of assault on workers’ rights.”
“I don’t know what’s going on here. I guess they just like to beat up on poor people,” she said, adding, “I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m upset, and I’ll fight it.”
A related proposal in the House, 1781 (which says a city can’t impose sick-leave requirements on businesses based elsewhere) will get a hearing next week, said Democratic Rep. Mike Sells, who chairs the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. But Sells said his committee and the House in general is focused on expanding sick leave — not restricting it.