Legislative Tactic Could Revoke Paid Sick Days, Minimum Wage, and Other Laws Helping Women

June 25, 2015


Three young women stand with a sign that says "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Young women at a rally in North Carolina. Image by Stephen Melkisethian, Flickr Creative Commons

In the face of congressional inaction, state and local policy makers are working harder than ever to expand the rights and protections of their constituents. Issues ranging from the Equal Rights Amendment to paid family leave have found success at the state and local levels.

However, a new trend is emerging across the country to repeal those victories and stop similar future legislation. So-called preemption bills have started to garner support over the past several years, with a surge in 2013. These bills, adopted at the state level, prohibit local governments from passing legislation relating to certain issues and in many cases invalidate laws that are already on the books. Many states are now working to preempt rights that fall within AAUW’s policy priorities, such as economic and civil rights protections. These bills often attack equal pay provisions, minimum wage increases, paid sick days, and LGBT safeguards.

These recent preemption bills undercut local control and the will of residents, despite the fact that in other venues proponents of the same bills tout the importance of local control. Local measures are often voted on directly by citizens, and the issues that the current spate of preemption bills are overriding have widespread support. For example, according to a 2015 survey, 88 percent of voters support all workers having access to earned paid sick days. But outside influences, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Restaurant Association, are lobbying hard to overturn locally supported protections with statewide preemption bills.

Currently, 12 states have preemption laws invalidating local economic or civil rights laws that fall within AAUW’s policy priorities. In 2004, Georgia passed a law preempting minimum wage and employee benefits enacted by local government entities. Wisconsin and Louisiana followed suit in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Then, in 2013, seven more states (Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee) enacted similar laws. Alabama and Oklahoma joined in the following year.

In the 2015 legislative session, several bills are threatening legislative wins that help women and girls. Arkansas has already passed a law preempting local rules that prohibit discrimination, and the Michigan legislature just passed the “Death Star” bill, which is awaiting the governor’s signature. The Michigan bill would override municipal laws on a range of issues, including minimum wage, employee benefits, sick leave, and union organizing. The Pennsylvania state legislature is also considering a preemption bill that would undo a recently passed paid sick leave law in Philadelphia. Three additional states (Missouri, Oregon, and South Carolina) have preemption bills that are still pending this session.

If your state has a preemption bill that will threaten the rights of women and girls and you want help from AAUW to fight back, take one of these steps!

1. To get input from our policy experts on AAUW’s stance on a particular issue, please fill out the state legislative request intake form.

2. To take action right now, use our e-mail blast request form.

And remember to thank the politicians who are stopping these attacks. In April, Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) vetoed a preemption bill that would have rolled back local progress on employee benefits. Working together, we can secure more rights for women and girls, instead of seeing our hard-fought victories repealed.

This post was written by AAUW State Policy Analyst Kate Nielson.



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Photo courtesy of Maryland GovPics, Flickr

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Kate Nielson By:   |   June 25, 2015


  1. […] prohibit cities from raising their minimum wages higher than that of the state; that law was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2012. These laws come from the model legislation pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council—a […]

  2. […] Twelve states have passed laws preempting minimum wage laws. Oklahoma passed a preemption law while the minimum wage underwent debate in Oklahoma City. When asked about his vote, Oklahoma Senator Dan Newberry said he supported the law because he believed minimum wage laws would “have a negative effect on the cities.” He may be right. But shouldn’t he have let the cities decide whether it would negatively impact them, especially under conservative values? […]

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