Columnist Says Texas Labor’s Local Strategy Is A Waste Of Time And Money

The Houston Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson says labor activists are wasting their time with city ordinances for things like paid sick leave. If they want lasting change, he says they’ll need to affect change in the legislature and in statewide elections.

By Rhonda Fanning & Michael MarksSeptember 4, 2018 9:58 am,

Maybe you spent your Labor Day throwing a barbecue, going to the lake or reading a book. The Houston Chronicle’s Chris Tomlinson did something a little different: He wrote a column assessing how successful of the Texas labor movement has been at getting paid sick-leave ordinances passed in big cities around the state. The verdict: it’s been a waste of time and money.

Tomlinson says it bothers him when he sees volunteers’ and donors’ time and money being wasted. He says more Americans should have paid sick leave – that it should be mandatory – but that what’s happening now in Texas is a “political game” by the labor movement.

“They’re going to these city councils where they know that they’ve got a receptive audience, they’re getting the ordinances passed…[and] everyone knows that when the legislature meets in 2019, it’s going to revoke everything that’s been done,” Tomlinson says.

Tomlinson says the local wins are merely symbolic, and that labor isn’t “even attempting to win the war.”

Tomlinson says he’s confident that city or county ordinances will be reversed because their authority is dictated by the legislature. With a Republican majority in both branches of the legislature, Tomlinson says conservative politicians are determined to reverse ordinances passed by more liberal city councils.

It’s possible that if people got used to the idea of paid sick leave, in cities where there is protection, they could mobilize and sway attitudes at the state level. But Tomlinson says even in cities where ordinances that have been approved, they have yet to take effect.

“The one that was passed in Austin has been blocked by a state court of appeals. The city council in San Antonio intentionally delayed the implementation of their ordinance until after the next legislative session because they know that it’s gonna be revoked,” Tomlinson says.

Tomlinson says business leaders in San Antonio were happy about this outcome because they’re confident they’ll get the ordinance nullified by the legislature.

Tomlinson says if the Texas labor movement wants to make lasting changes that lead to paid sick leave, they’re going to have to change policy on a state level.

“If it wants to accomplish anything, it needs to win state House, State Senate elections, and change the minds of people in the legislature – and stop wasting people’s time in the cities,” Tomlinson says.

In the meantime, Tomlinson says if it wants to succeed, labor should work toward registering more voters who support its initiatives in order to boost voter turnout.

Written by Caroline Covington.