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Momentum Builds for State and Local Paid Sick Days Policies

Having the right to take a day off from work when you are ill shouldn’t have to be a dream – it should be a reality for all workers. But millions of Californians are forced to come to work sick or send their child to school ill because they don’t have access to a single paid sick day. 

The benefits of paid sick days are clear: they provide economic security for workers, a safeguard for public health, and they improve personal and family health and well-being. My family benefits greatly from San Francisco’s law. We suffered our own economic downturn when my ex-husband lost his job and had to take a much lower paying job as a security guard for Muni. But, as San Francisco workers, there’s no question about whether we have access to paid sick days. It makes a huge difference that either one of us can take a day off when one of our three children falls ill. We’ve each only had to use a couple days this year but knowing we have them makes a huge difference to the family budget and to our peace of mind.  Now, activists across the state are organizing to make this a basic right for all workers.

AB 1522: Paid Sick Days for All Californians

Members of the California Work & Family Coalition are supporting Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bill AB 1522, which establishes a minimum standard of three paid sick days for all California workers. As of this writing, it is being held in suspense in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Coalition organizations are letting Senator De León, the Chair of that Committee, know that paid sick days are a priority to their members and to workers across the state. Please send letters to Senator De León, letting him know that passing AB 1522 is a priority to you and your community.

In addition to the state bill, there are local campaign efforts in California to ensure workers have access to paid sick days and an elevated minimum wage.

San Diego Victory

The San Diego City Council approved an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the city to $11.50 an hour by January 2017, and ensure all workers get at least five paid sick days. Raise Up San Diego, a local coalition, has been building support for this popular measure, which many workers say would lift them out of poverty and put money back into the local economy. Unfortunately, recently-elected Mayor Faulconer vetoed the bill last week. It is expected that the Council will override his veto. The measure will go to a referendum if opponents put it on the ballot.

Lift Up Oakland

Lift Up Oakland is a city-wide campaign to raise Oakland’s minimum wage to $12.25 an hour and allow workers to earn five or nine paid sick days a year. Organizers have collected over 30,000 signatures to place this measure on the November ballot.

Business groups led by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce worked with Council President Pat Kernighan to draft a rival ordinance that would have weakened the Lift Up Oakland measure by slowing down the minimum wage increase and exempting many non-profit businesses, workers under 26, and small businesses (including many fast food establishments/franchises).  In late July, the Oakland City council voted 5-3 to reject the Chamber’s version, but the campaign is far from over. Despite a recent poll that shows more than 70% of likely voters support Lift Up Oakland’s proposal, organizers are working hard to reach likely voters throughout the city.

Los Angeles Grocery Workers and Hotel Workers

Two industry-specific campaigns based in LA are focused on improving access to paid sick days in the city. RAISE LA is building support for a measure that would provide five paid sick days per year and raise the hourly minimum wage to $15.37 an hour for hotel workers.  

And Shop Well LA is campaigning for an ordinance to ensure that grocery workers receive seven paid sick days.

And, in Santa Clara County, Working Partnerships is taking a critical step to address the need for economic security by including paid sick days in their Living Wage policy.

These campaigns are part of a national trend: since San Francisco became the first city in the US to pass a paid sick days ordinance in 2006, eight cities and one state have passed similar laws and many other campaigns are underway, trying to bring the peace of mind that comes with the right to take a day off work when you or your family need it most. 

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