Editor’s note: This is the response of Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), to a previous blog (headlined "Escape From Milwaukee") by business owner Dennis Ellmaurer.
At a time when area employers are unified behind challenging a devastating city ordinance on mandatory sick leave, we get an uninformed Monday morning quarterback column on what should have been done to defeat this ballot initiative?
As CEO of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), I am compelled to clear up some gross miss-characterizations of our role in both opposing the ballot initiative and our strategy, which we undertook with unanimous member support. (Then I will turn back to the task at hand)
1. The sick leave initiative got on the ballot via collected signatures;ever pay much attention at shopping mall? Having MMAC run around and lecture everyone signing petitions at the mall, college or community center as they pass by is not a winning strategy, but changing the state law that allows direct legislation in a state, county, and city with full time legislators would have an impact.
2. MMAC was very visible and responsible in working to hold press conferences, getting media coverage, and editorials in opposition to the sick leave referendum. We rained mail, calls, direct contacts and email on the Mayor and Common Council. Should they have been more vocal in opposition? Absolutely. But once the signatures were collected, neither the council nor the Mayor had the authority to change (or as Mr. Ellmaurer suggests, water down) the ballot language. It was either passed by the Council as is, or put on the ballot. Had our elected leadership been capable of keeping it from reaching the ballot like Gov. Strickland did in Ohio when faced with a statewide referendum – then we would be in a different place today.
3. We believe we have a strong and well-timed legal case and are in the process of seeking an injunction, while we work to have this sick leave mandate overturned. We have engaged a vast number of small business owners, contractors, and large companies in the case against the sick leave ordinance. We have taken every tool we have at our disposal in a democracy to stop this bad economic policy.
In 20 years, I have never seen such a strong and unified response to an issue, nor such deep support from our membership for our actions. We are proud of our members who opened their doors to hold press conferences, who took the time to speak out to other business leaders, who called the Mayor and Council members, who stood up and took action – none of whom I would describe as "a too cozy business community."
Mr. Ellmaurer is spot on in terms of the debilitating impact this has on the city’s theme for jobs, and unfortunately there will be many jobs that move out, or just don’t move in unless we are successful in court. But his insinuation that MMAC dropped the ball, or is somehow lacking in leadership is a long way from constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s happening on the field from so far up in the stands.
To any business leader who wants to play, we extend an offer to get involved with the MMAC and help make a real difference in this community.
Tim Sheehy is president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. For additional information about the opposition to Milwaukee’s sick leave mandate, visit www.bizforgrowth.com.