A bill working its way through the Capitol would weaken Madison’s legacy of non-discrimination, the city’s civil rights department says.
The measure would prevent local governments from enacting ordinances covering worker employment issues such as hours, overtime, discrimination, benefits and wages.
That would, among other things, prevent municipalities from upping their own minimum wages.
Authors of the GOP backed bill, as well as the business lobby leaders that support it, say it’s necessary to create statewide labor standards.
At today’s public hearing, Senator Chris Kapenga said, “Recently, there has been a nationwide movement to impose stricter and more burdensome employment laws at the local level, consequently restricting the free movement of labor.”
But labor leaders are concerned. They say it’s an overreach of the state government into local matters. Plus, they say local governments won’t be able to respond to future changes in the employment landscapes of their own communities.
Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, says that this bill is designed to undermine local control to the detriment of the working people in Wisconsin.
The city of Madison is one of the municipalities registered against the bill. Madison has in place certain employment discrimination protections, including protections for atheists that the state doesn’t have. This bill puts those protections in jeopardy.
Norman Davis is the director of Madison’s department of civil rights. He says Madison has a long history of fighting discrimination and going above and beyond the state, including a civil rights ordinance that preceded the federal civil rights act by a year.
The state’s largest business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, as well as Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The committee didn’t take immediate action on the bill after today’s public hearing.