Being “business friendly” makes South Carolinians work sick and cheap

Just when you thought South Carolina couldn’t be more business-friendly, the Senate passed a bill on Feb. 8 to ensure that we not only work cheap but also work sick. The bill passed by a 32-8 vote, with six Democrats voting with Republicans.

Introduced every session for the last five years, the bill would prohibit local governments from requiring businesses to provide any employee benefits, such as sick leave. If it becomes law, the “work-sick” requirement will be tacked onto a “work-cheap” law passed in 2002 that bars local governments from setting a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. (South Carolina is one of five states with no minimum wage.)

If it’s hard to see how such legislation benefits ordinary South Carolinians, it’s because that was never the intent.

To put the issue in perspective, at least 145 countries provide paid sick days, with 127 providing a week or more annually. The United States is among the few countries that doesn’t require paid sick leave for all workers (McGill University’s “Work, Family, and Equity Index”), which is what’s prompting cities to act and big business to react.

Both the “work-cheap” and the “work-sick” bills can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-funded bill mill where “business-friendly” conservative legislators and corporations craft model state legislation that benefits the corporate bottom line. A paid sick days preemption bill, originally passed in Wisconsin in 2011, was shopped around at an ALEC meeting that year by the National Restaurant Association, and similar bills were subsequently introduced in at least 13 other states, including South Carolina.

The bill was rushed through the Senate in 12 days, and is now on the way to the House, where we need to insure that it is given a thorough public vetting.

The ALEC task force behind the bill is co-chaired by YUM! Brands, Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Fast food and lodging corporations are leading the fight against sick leave. Not surprisingly, these corporations are among LCI members campaign contributors.

A study by the Food Chain Workers Alliance “The Hands that Feed Us” found that 79 percent of food industry workers do not earn paid sick days. Another study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, found that more than half of all outbreaks of the stomach flu can be linked to sick food service workers. Numerous economic studies show that paid sick days are a benefit to employers who want to retain a skilled and dedicated workforce, save more than it costs in medical expenses, and reduce the impact of communicable diseases.

The “work- sick” bills target cities in Republican-controlled states that might consider sick days ordinances. Ironically, these bill are an example of the very “big government” that these same Republicans rail against.

Imagine that the Hilton Head town council decides that its well-heeled visitors deserve some assurance that they are not being served by sick workers and puts the issue of sick leave to a referendum. This bill would prevent Hilton Head voters from passing an ordinance ensuring that workers who take a few, non-paid, sick days a year not get fired.

Under current law, more than 600,000 people in South Carolina must choose between working sick, staying home with a sick child, or getting paid. To many, making the responsible choice means getting fired. This bill will make sure that nothing changes.

The folks from ALEC, who brought us the photo ID law to restrict who gets to vote, are now pushing legislation to restrict what we get to vote on.

The six Democratic senators who voted to keep you working sick are: Gerald Malloy, Thomas McElveen, Nikki Setzler, Kent Williams, Floyd Nicholson and Glen Reese. Full campaign disclosures on senators voting for this bill to follow.

Brett Bursey is the Executive Director of the SC Progressive Network. Email him at

Join us Feb. 5 in Columbia for special organizing session

The Jan. 21 Rally and Strategy Summit mobilized thousands across South Carolina. As we said, it was not just a rally but a call to action. On Sunday, we’ll meet in Columbia to plan next steps. Please join us.

SC Progressive Network Planning Meeting
Sunday, Feb. 5, 3-5pm
SC Education Association, 421 Zimalcrest Dr., Columbia

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached during the war in Vietnam that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” We are again at that time in America. The SC Progressive Network has been working for 20 years – and our mentors for decades more – to be ready for this time. We have to acknowledge that we are not ready. We’re not surprised by what has happened, we just didn’t see it coming so soon, so fast and so brutally. We’ve got the skeleton, but it needs the muscle and flesh of kindred spirits to bring our resistance to full power.

We need your help to turn this crisis into an opportunity, an opportunity to lift ourselves, our state and nation to higher expectations of what life, and government, should be like in the world’s richest country that calls itself a democracy.

We’re meeting in Columbia on Sunday to take stock and plan next steps. We’ll begin with a local imperative that has national resonance and an immediate action plan. The Grass Roots Alliance for Immigrant Rights is an organization that the Network has been fostering for several years, and is the only immigrant-led organization attempting statewide organizing. They represent SC family and friends threatened with deportation, and provide an example of how to leverage local organizing on national issues.

We will consider direct action plans to defend them that also serve to grow our united front movement. Network members and allies are encourage to attend.

Democracy Under Seige

Brett Bursey, SC Progressive Network Executive Director

When America looks in the mirror, staring back is the visage of Donald Trump, revealing the unadorned rotten core of the “thing-oriented society” that Dr. King warned us about. We failed to embraced the “radical revolution of values” he said were needed to conquer the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.” Trump is a logical conclusion to our nation’s failure of moral leadership.

Last November, Americans voted against unpopular political parties with corporate and transnational allegiances. Trump won because white working people want their country back; but they bought the lies about who took it. The Democratic Party offered a kinder, gentler version of the free market: but it didn’t satisfy enough voters to turn the socialist and alt-right rising tides.

In his farewell address, George Washington warned that political parties are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George was right. Unjust dominion is where our political parties have led us, where money is free speech, corporations are people, and democracy has been sold to the highest bidder. The result is: from health care, to education, economic mobility, to infrastructure, and voter participation, the United States trails the rest of the modern world.

At our founding 20 years ago, the SC Progressive Network determined that to win elections, a movement needed to grow its own party that was popular. We are in a “pre-party” phase, because we do not yet have the capacity to grow, or rehabilitate, a  political party with the clout to win and hold candidates accountable on a state wide basis.  Jamie Harrison, Democratic Party chair said, during debates over their candidate’s lack of support for “Obamacare”, that “the SC Progressive Network is doing what the Democratic Party needs to do to win elections.” We’ve got the ‘inside-outside” strategy and the tools, but we don’t have the organizational capacity to work them. That’s where you come in.

The new administration’s dangerous actions have provoked well-deserved outrage that needs to be sustained and spread. The Network will facilitate resistance with logistical support, legal counsel and networking. We will also continue the work to develop and strengthen the new tools and pathways necessary to fix our broken democracy. We must have the discipline to do more than simply react, or resort to the placing our hopes on the old ways that have failed. This fight has been a long time coming, and requires a long-term strategy.

The SC Progressive Network’s Education Fund, our nonpartisan policy institute, will continue to develop sound public policies. We work with the SC Progressive Legislative Caucus and the ACLU-SC to coordinate our strategy to educate, agitate, legislate and litigate. Our statewide individual membership will continue to be the troops on the ground to educate, agitate and organize their communities to strengthen our movement. We need more people to JOIN so we can hire our third staff person to keep up with the opportunities. We are not grant driven and the majority of our funding comes from local dues and donations.

Our political action committee will continue to strategically identify the few races where progressive engagement can make a difference.  The three candidates we chose to support won the last three legislative races we worked. Last November, we targeted the two Senate races, out of 46, that were contested. Our candidates, one Republican (who beat Lee Bright), and one Democrat who is a long time SCPN member, won. We are developing the necessary power to punish, or reward our political enemies or allies.

We will continue to offer the Modjeska Simkins School for Human Rights to train new organizers and send them into communities across the state. We will complete the purchase of the building next door to the Modjeska Simkins House in downtown Columbia to have dedicated space for the school, cultural activities and to strengthen our sense of community.

We will continue to provide a well-considered, state-based strategy to promote our shared social values. Our most important assets are our shared history with South Carolinians who have fought this same battle for generations, trust built on years of experience, an expanding core of people with a shared vision, and an emerging leadership that is prepared to carry the organization to new levels.

We are made hopeful by the public demonstrations taking place around the country and in South Carolina by people who are standing united for the very values upon which the nation was founded and we continue to strive for. We need to harness that energy in a way that is smart, fearless, and sustainable.

•  •  •

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered”
Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
Excerpt from “Beyond Vietnam”

Thousands brave stormy weather in Columbia to rally in solidarity with people around globe

SC Progressive Network Co-Chair Marjorie Hammock welcomes the overflow crowd at Music Farm, the rally’s rain location. See more photos in our album.

• • •

Thundershowers didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands who gathered in Columbia on the first day of the new administration. The rally was held in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, held in cities across the state and around the globe.

It was more than a rally. It was a call to action. Saturday’s post-rally strategy summit opened with this video from Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter.

It was followed by speakers from some of the summit’s 43 partnering organizations, spoken word artists, gospel, and drumming. The mood was electric.

The extraordinary poet Nikky Finney and Dr. Akan Malici offered powerful moments.

Daniel Deweese of the New Legacy Project challenged the young people in the crowd to get busy and “dream dangerously.”

The day concluded with participants breaking into issue caucuses and planning next steps.

Follow-up meetings are being planned for Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville. Bookmark the Network’s web site to stay in touch. If haven’t signed up yet, subscribe to our e-list.

Finally, please read Meeghan Kane‘s piece and watch Betty Benns‘ video at Auntie Bellum. It will inspire you.

Keep the faith. As the James Brothers reminded us on Saturday, “all things are possible, if you only believe.”


Message to enraged and newly engaged Network members

Like the rest of the world, the SC Progressive Network is coming to grips with the new social and political reality since the election. We’ve mourned. We’ve raged. Now we’re moving to the next stage: organizing like our lives depended on it. We are glad that you’ve joined us.

Progressives must work collaboratively and strategically to map a way forward – together. These perilous times offer an opportunity to grow the revolution of social values the Network has been working toward for 20 years. It is going to take discipline, hard work, and a lot of help. We need your time, your talent, your energy, your ideas, and your financial support. (Become a member by clicking here. Already a member but want to make a donation? Click here.)

We have an influx of new members to the Network, and a renewed interest from organizations who are in the process of re-joining or becoming members for the first time. Interest on social media also has spiked. (If you haven’t already, join us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also view video clips of Network events and rallies on our YouTube channel.)

Columbia’s November meeting attracted some 140 people, so many that we had to change our meeting space. We may have to do the same in December; check the calendar when we send it next week for the meeting location.

To accommodate our growth spurt, and to find ways to engage our new members, we are expanding our meeting schedule so that those who can’t make a regular monthly meeting can pick a different day and time and get together for a breakfast or lunch meeting, or for an after-work or Sunday afternoon social. We will solicit comments from our members and implement our broader calendar in January.

We are in the beginning stages of organizing an event for SC folks who are not going to Washington to protest the inauguration. We’ll be talking about it at our next chapter meetings. Ideas welcome. We may model it after the InHogural ball we held to celebrate Gov. Nikki Haley’s taking the helm in 2011.

inhogural_low_resTo newcomers, we welcome you with gratitude and great hope for building a broader and more united force to resist the rising tide of oppression and fascism. Please feel free to call or email our office with your questions or suggestions, or to get assigned a task. Meanwhile, please visit our web site to see the projects we’re working on and ways you can get involved.

We wish you all peace during the the coming holidays. If you’re in Columbia, please join us for our annual celebration of Modjeska Monteith Simkins’ birthday on Dec. 5 at her home, 2025 Marion St. The casual drop-in between 5:30-7pm is open to all.


4The November Network meeting in Columbia attracted such a large crowd we had to move to a larger space. More pics here.