Ohio Healthy Families Act (2008)

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The Healthy Families Act was an initiated state statute whose supporters hoped to qualify it for the November 4, 2008 ballot in Ohio. If enacted, it would have required employers with 25 or more employees to guarantee full-time employees at least seven days of paid sick leave each year (and part-time employees a pro-rated amount of leave) to care for themselves and their families’ medical needs.

The initiative had originally been submitted to the legislature, but when in May, the legislature had taken no action, initiative supporters decided to start collecting signatures to place it on the ballot.


Measure to be withdrawn

Service Employees International Union District 1199, a labor union at the forefront of the ballot initiative, said Sept. 4, 2008, that it would ask Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to pull the measure. The union was the leader of Ohioans for Healthy Families, the coalition that worked place the measure on the November 2008 ballot.[1][2]

Becky Williams, president of the District 1199 union, said the coalition would be withdrawing the measure in favor of supporting a federal sick-leave mandate. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was a co-sponsor of a sick-leave bill pending in Congress, a measure being supporting by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.[1]

WIlliams acknowledged that the Ohio ballot proposition had become divisive and unproductive. "We decided it was a fight that didn't make sense for Ohio workers," she said.[1]

On August 6, 2008, the state's petition filing deadline, proponents submitted 241,739 signatures against a requirement of 120,683 signatures. The measure was awaiting the Secretary of State's certification when the decision was made to withdraw the measure.[3][4]

Measure may be off ballot, but not off everyone's mind

Some felt that even though the measure was dropped from the ballot, it may not have been the end of the paid sick leave issue in Ohio. Some feared the issue might have been proposed in the future at the federal level, especially if presidential candidate Barack Obama was elected. Steve Roush of The Times Gazette wrote an editorial highlighting some of the details of this possibility and criticizing Governor Ted Strickland's complacency on the paid sick leave issue, even while publicly opposing the proposed initiative in Ohio.

Read the article here


  • Dale Butland was a spokesman for the Healthy Families Act.
  • SEIU District 1199,[5], a labor union which had targeted Ohio for its organizing efforts, filed a petition with the Ohio Attorney General to start the process of placing a new statute. This group later formed into the Ohioans for Healthy Families coalition, whose list of coalition members included democratic leaning organizations[6]
  • Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama also supported the measure.
  • Public opinion polls conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, Quinnipiac University and others consistently found over 70% supported for the measure across party lines.[8]


  • A coalition group calling itself Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits formed in opposition to the measure in July 2008. This group stated the proposed act was a "job-killer" that threatens the state economy.[9]
  • The Ohio Roundtable was opposed to the measure and pledged to spend $1 million to defeat it. The Roundtable also started an opposition website called Play Sick Ohio, where the tagline was, "Killing Ohio Jobs, Hurting Ohio Families."[10][11]
  • The Gay People's Chronicle opposed the Healthy Families Act because it excluded members of the gay community.[12]
  • Another group that was against the initiative was the National Federation of Independent Business, represented by Ty Pine in news interviews. The group believed the initiative would burden businesses and lead to other benefits being cut.[13]
  • The East Liverpool Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution against the measure in mid-July.[14]
  • An article published by the Canton Repository, Susan C. Rodgers of the Board of Contributors stated the measure sounded good, but had a catch:
"The proposal is shortsighted and would have adverse consequences. The short-term gain of forcing someone to pay you for time off to handle personal matters will be offset by long-term, detrimental consequences for Ohio's economy.
Ohio would be the first and only state to have a required paid-leave policy. The Healthy Families Act intends to impose on Ohio employers onerous obligations that the federal government does not mandate on employers across the country, much less obligations that employers in certain other parts of the world face. It would create an obvious disadvantage when Ohio competes for business against other states and countries.
Many employers already provide as much or more paid leave to their employees. But the key is that the state allows companies to make their own choices based upon their business, finances, production needs and competition. Denying businesses these choices may force them to make other choices, such as to not move to, stay in or expand in Ohio."[15]
  • Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, began speaking out publicly against the so-called Healthy Families Act in June, urging business and labor to get together and work out a compromise that would keep it off the ballot.[16]

Strickland had been talking with business leaders and the Service Employees International Union to craft a sick-days law that both sides could accept, arguing that a nasty and high-profile campaign this fall would "paint Ohio as an unfriendly state for business."

As of August 20, 2008, he gave up seeking a compromise to keep the issue off the Nov. 4 ballot.[17]

Arguments against the initiative

  • Ohio ranked 47th out of 50 states for job creation, and "cannot stand another job killer, yet here it is."
  • It was an expensive, complicated mandate.
  • If it passed, Ohio would be the only state in the nation that mandated sick leave.
  • Businesses would not move to Ohio but would instead take their jobs to Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia or Pennsylvania.
  • It would be a "record-keeping nightmare," especially for small businesses.[18]


A Columbus Dispatch poll before the Ohio primary had the sick-leave proposal winning favor from 45 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats.[19]

See also

External links

Additional reading