Few people outside the Republican presidential primary would argue that low-income workers have it made in America. With stagnating wages, skyrocketing rents, and the prohibitive costs of many essential needs, it’s little wonder that progressivism is seemingly becoming the new normal in American politics. However, this is not necessarily true in local politics. In fact, working families in Prince George’s County discovered this week that their County Council has more in common with Jeb Bush than Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
In what should have been a win-win for policymakers and residents alike, things took a bizarre turn when the so-called progressive legislators of the Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development (PZED) Committee failed to pass a paid sick leave bill which would have guaranteed every worker in the county up to 7 paid days off annually. The bill would have directly benefited 131,000 workers and their families who currently lack access to any paid sick leave and many others who receive less than this bill would have required. While two committee members, Karen R. Toles and Deni Taveras, co-sponsored and supported the bill, three of their colleagues–Dannielle M. Glaros, Derrick Leon Davis, and Andrea Harrison–voted to table the bill for the remainder of the legislative session, citing concerns over Prince George’s fragile economy.
Lawmakers opposing the bill have voiced varying levels of support for paid sick leave legislation with many saying they hope to see a state bill passed by the General Assembly. This is a clear example of local lawmakers putting their own political aspirations ahead of the needs of their constituents. It is no secret that Council chairman Mel Franklin intends to run for county executive in 2018 and he clearly believes appeasing the business community by refusing to put paid sick leave on the Council’s agenda will get him there. While he ultimately conceded under pressure from progressive activists, it may have only been without a caveat. Council member Dannielle Glaros, when questioned about her support asked, “Do you really want to anger the Chairman?” Interested in her own advancement within the Council, Glaros clearly doesn’t wish to elicit any ill will from the powerbrokers.
The arguments against paid sick leave remain weak. Evidence continues to show that the best way to achieve economic growth is to invest in working people. Whether it’s through increased wages or benefits, employers who recognize the value of their employees (both on and off the job) experience greater worker productivity and retention. We have to acknowledge the inherent dignity and worth of all people. Stop acting as if businesses are a persecuted population in constant need of protection. There is an entire political party and countless institutions dedicated to the success of business at all costs. It’s the lower class that needs a leg up. Where is their institutional advocate? Come 2018, perhaps County voters will put one in place.