This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) passing with a newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton in office. It had been a long-term project of many, including former senator Chris Dodd. The FMLA was a big compromise for progressives but for employees who qualified for it, 12 weeks of sick leave were guaranteed.
FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:
- for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
- for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
There were big problems with the FMLA as up to 40 percent of the workforce were not covered by it. As Slate points out, for workers rights advocates, this was one step forward but so much more must still be done.
For too many people in the U.S. today, no paid leave means putting off or never getting time like this when family needs it or suffering a financial crisis. A growing number of employers, most recently Lyft, Walmart, and Starbucks, have figured out that updating their paid family leave policies is the smart as well as the right thing to do. Corporate lobbyists point to these changes to argue that decisions about paid leave are best left to individual employers. But if we left social progress solely to corporations, we likely still would have child labor and no minimum wage. Notably, Lyft and Walmart’s new policies leave out many of their own workforce.
Progressives have fought and won for workers on the state level but with the ascension of a goddamn idiot into office, along with a slew of congressional idiots in tow, the rights of the working American have now taken a back seat to billionaire bottom lines. So when Texas’ Austin City Council thinks about passing an ordinance on Thursday requiring all businesses in the city to offer at least eight paid sick days a year, and numerous small businesses signed on to support the effort, there is still a lot of push back. Well-funded and powerful push back. Stories of small business owners being rushed into this decision and an anxious flood the airwaves has risen into the debate. Take more time to consider this, maybe study it forever, say conservative mouthpieces.
Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has studied the effects of these rules on businesses, including in New York City and the state of Connecticut.
“What we found is that it had virtually no effect on business operations,” she said.
As far as Applebaum—who has studied similar laws—can see, most workers look at their sick leave the same way they look at insurance. It’s nice to have and you try not to use it unless you need to. Sounds pretty easy to understand. And yet this has led to people like State Rep. Paul Workman to announce that he will crush those municipal rights even if that means doing some work.
On Monday State Rep. Paul Workman sent Fox 7 a statement saying in part: “Just as last session the State Legislature was successful in preempting the City of Austin’s ruinous ridesharing mandates and “linkage fees” scheme, so too will the State Legislature step in and protect job creators from the Austin Mayor and City Council’s employee-leave mandate on private-sector employers.”
State Rep. Tony Dale tells Fox 7 he and his wife are small business owners. He says forced paid sick leave will have unintended consequences.
“Maybe people today are getting paid holidays off and maybe their employer won’t give them that anymore or maybe there will be less people they’re hiring because they can’t afford to. There’s only so much money to go around and just because someone is a small business owner doesn’t mean they make a lot of money,” Dale said.
This brings us back to the National Federation of Independent Business. Rep. Workman is a recipient of the NFIB’s “Guardian of Small Business” award. Yay! Oh, so it Rep. Tony Dale. The NFIB spends a lot of time and ink breathlessly telling everyone that they want to inform and protect the small business owner. An example of small business “protection” by the NFIB includes cheering on the discrimination of people with disabilities. They also filed and funded a lawsuit/campaign against Obamacare in 2012 that included the Supreme Court lawsuit—NFIB v. Sebelius. This was and is the exact same kind of tactics Republicans have been employing for decades. Attacking working people while telling them that they are only hurting them because they love them.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the NFIB fights for issues that the Republican Party as well as big corporations also fight for: deregulation, lower taxes and tort reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NFIB’s political action committee has raised over $20 million since 1998. In 2010, nearly 94 percent of contributions went to Republicans. This year it’s 98 percent. It spent $9.5 million lobbying against the healthcare reform bill in 2010. And last year, the NFIB received $3.7 million from Crossroads GPS, according to Bloomberg. Crossroads GPS is a non-profit with close ties to Karl Rove, the political adviser of George W. Bush.Given the partisan affiliations and positions, it’s unsurprising that other groups who claim to speak for small business, such as Family Values at Work, cast a gimlet-eye at the NFIB. So do small-business owners and small-business advocacy groups. Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, called the NFIB a “small-business pretender” and “lapdog” of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In April, J. Kelly Conklin, a New Jersey cabinetmaker, wrote in the Hill: “Whether we’re talking about health care or taxes (or both at the same time), NFIB always seems to side with the big fellas – big insurance, big banking, big business – not little guys like me. Why? I don’t know.”
It was during this time that people began to investigate and discover that the NFIB got its money from some strange bedfellows. It turns out that the NFIB is funded very heavily from a not-so-small business owner—Koch Industries.
But it turns out that the champions of Main Street America got more money last year from a group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch than any other single source.NFIB and its affiliated groups received $2.5 million from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a conservative advocacy group with deep ties to the Koch empire. Of the five men that sit on the group’s board, four are current or former employees of Koch companies and one is a friend of Charles Koch’s.
The entire Texas legislature seems to be on the KochPAC payroll, including Reps. Workman and Dale.
No state is as important to the Kochs’ bottom line as Texas. According to a report in the Houston Business Journal, “Texas has more Koch employees than any other state, 8,454, and there are 33,346 Texas jobs in total created by the Koch companies through direct, indirect and induced impacts.”
These employees may work for a number of different Koch companies that operate in the state including (but not limited to): Flint Hills Resources, Georgia-Pacific, Koch Chemical Technology Group, Koch Energy Services, Koch Minerals, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Pipeline Company, Koch Supply & Trading, Matador Ranch, and Molex Incorporated.
The names of those business interests are an encyclopedia of what should be and is currently not regulated for human and animal health and well being. The fight against humans’ well being is the Koch brand.
Sign up for our newsletter.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.