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Md. sick leave supporters criticize Hogan as out of touch

Supporters of requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to provide five paid sick days criticized Gov. Larry Hogan for his veto, suggesting that his actions were hypocritical and out of touch with the working poor.

Legislators and members of the Working Matters Coalition and their supporters held signs at a Tuesday rally in Hampden comparing Hogan to The Grinch. They called on General Assembly to override the veto while simultaneously threatening to make the governor’s action an issue in the 2018 election.

“We’re going to do two things,” said Ricarra Jones, political organizer for the labor union SEIU 1199. “First, we’re going to override the veto in January and second we are kicking Governor Hogan out in November.”

The bill as passed would mandate that companies with 15 or more workers offer at least 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees who work at least 12 hours a week. Supporters say it would cover 700,000 Maryland workers.

Hogan vetoed the bill last week. He said it would be “disastrous” to Maryland’s economy, kill small businesses and jeopardize thousands of jobs. The Republican governor says he is open to a “common-sense” approach to paid sick leave.

“Governor Hogan supports common-sense paid sick leave,” said Amelia Chassé, a Hogan spokeswoman. “The governor is committed to working with legislators, small-business owners, workers, and advocates on a common-sense, bipartisan, balanced plan that provides paid leave benefits to hardworking Marylanders without hurting our small-business job creators. Fortunately, House Bill 1 is not slated to take effect until January, which means – as the governor said last week – there is still time to get this right and compromise on a better bill.”

Hogan said last week that his own proposal would be less harmful. The governor restated his support for providing paid sick leave and issued three executive orders that create a task force to examine the effects of the policy on small businesses as well as ordering agencies to provide leave to contractual employees and give preference to bidders who offer leave to their workers.

“We are beyond disappointed with the governor’s veto of this bill and would call on the General Assembly to take this up as the first piece of business when they reconvene in January and to override the veto,” said Regan K. Vaughan, director of advocacy for Catholic Charities.

The Working Matters Coalition, which sponsored the Hampden rally and separate event in Kensington, includes members of the health, faith, small business, labor unions and community organizations. Several dozen small businesses, many of which do not currently offer paid sick leave, have also signed on to back the cause.

House Speaker Michael Busch and other Democrats say they will make a veto override a priority in January.

Supporters of the vetoed bill criticized Hogan for rejecting a measure that would help low-income workers after taking time off for his own cancer treatments in 2015.

The rally featured a number of signs critical of Hogan, including one that featured a reference to Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and accused the governor of vetoing the bill because his “heart was two sizes too small.”

Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City and lead sponsor of the vetoed House bill, called Hogan’s bill “ineffective” and “window dressing.”

“We don’t need a task force to tell us what we already know,” Clippinger said, adding, “We need to override the governor’s veto.”

Clippinger and other advocates also claimed Hogan was denying benefits that he himself took advantage of when he was undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“We’ve all heard the stories,” Clippinger said, referring to five years of testimony from workers who told legislators how they were unable to take time off work when they were ill or lost their jobs because they did. “The governor, the man who vetoed this bill, has his story, too, and he’s covered.”

Ruth Martin, national director for workplace equality policies and campaigns for Moms Rising, said Hogan “callously vetoed” a bill that would help single, working mothers.

Rev. Marlon Tilghman, co-chair of social justice organization Bridge Maryland, said Hogan was out of touch with the working poor.

“How is it that someone like the governor, who gets the advantage of sick leave, and even his wife, who if I recall was a single mother at one time and and probably needed sick leave, how could he forget so quickly that sick leave is necessary?” said Tilghman. “How is it possible he could forget so quickly but perhaps it is because of the means by which he used to live he can forget so quickly about the means by which we live?”

“Governor Hogan, I’m praying for you,” Tilghman said. “I’m actually praying for your health and the situation, the cancer, that you’re currently involved in. But let’s be honest, do you really care about the 700,000 other Marylanders who are in the same situation that you were in and that your wife may have been in.”

The criticisms echo those of other Democratic legislators who reacted angrily to Hogan’s veto including Del. Andrew Platt, D-Montgomery County, who referred to Hogan on Twitter as “a millionaire who gets cancer treatment on the government’s dime/then tells poor people they can’t have paid sick leave.”

Chassé declined to respond to the comments directed at the governor.

“This is a serious policy issue,” Chassé said. “Personal attacks have no place in this discussion and aren’t worth responding to.”