Despite extensive countywide efforts to implement employee benefit mandates, Gov. Rick Scott, backed by numerous corporate sponsors, signed a statewide counter-legislative measure intended to limit the rights of voters to require benefits such as sick and maternal leave from their employers. It’s a move that puts limits on the autonomy of Florida’s 67 counties in determining employment policies and is at odds with referendums across the state.
Despite heavy veto pressure from opposition groups and constituents, Scott enthusiastically passed the measure, highlighting a common trend through the Republican governor’s tenure that has granted exceptional privileges to large employers to the detriment of working families — even at the expense of the conservative mantra that less government is better government.
The Florida Legislature has, on a regular basis, expanded employer benefits at the expense of the employee.
In 1968, revisions to the Florida Constitution authorized a broad extension of powers to local municipalities that would allow cities and counties to dictate, among other statutes, minimum wage and employee policy ordinances.
Pursuant to these county and municipal charters, many counties enacted decrees that leveled the playing field in favor of the employee, often requiring minimum wage and sick-leave remunerations beyond federal requirements.
After extensive lobbying efforts by Florida businesses, and in direct opposition to democratically enacted mandates, the Florida House sponsored the passage of Florida Statute 218.077 in 2003, which levied statutory restrictions of minimum wage requirements, overriding local edicts that establish countywide wage standards.
Local unions and workers’ rights groups circumvented the restrictive measures by lobbying local governments to establish mandatory paid-sick-time measures not associated with minimum wage through a wide-reaching petitioning campaign.
After a similar local lobbying effort in Orange County, large corporate entities such as Walt Disney World, Darden Restaurant and the Florida Chamber of Commerce mobilized a comprehensive silencing campaign to limit the rights of workers by persuading the Florida House to introduce CS/HB 655, which amends statute 218.077 to further constrain the ability of local municipalities to set local employment standards, effectively consolidating work policy into the hands of the state.
Scott’s track record as a staunch conservative who willingly overrides popular consensus to favor corporate interest speaks for itself — or, as his representatives claim, it “(favors) small businesses and economic growth.”
The irony, however, is that for all his unwavering opposition of federal regulation, he is more than keen to strip local municipalities of their autonomy when likely donors and Florida businesses with substantial amounts of capital are in jeopardy.