Despite fractures among labor, paid sick days bill clears Legislature

A bill that would significantly expand working Californians’ access to paid time off for sick leave cleared the Legislature early Saturday morning.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) would require employers to give their workers at least three paid sick days per year. Supporters say it would provide paid leave to approximately 6.5 million workers in the state.

Gonzalez, speaking in the Assembly, acknowledged the bill had been trimmed back, but said “we’ve been able to maintain the integrity of a bill that … would expand workers’ rights in a way that is unprecedented in this state or in this nation when it comes to paid time off.”

Under the proposal, employers would be required to provide paid sick days to employees who work 30 or more days within a year of being hired.  The paid sick days would accrue at a rate at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.

San Francisco County is the only county in California that requires employers to provide paid sick  leave for all employees, including temporary and part-time employees, who work within the county.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said the proposal made sense from a public health perspective.

“Do we want to be served by people who are sick?” Skinner asked. “If the employer provides no ability for them to [take paid time off], then we put ourselves at risk.”

The bill had been a top priority for unions which had sought such a mandate for years. But labor support faltered in the waning days of the session, with SEIU and other major unions opposing late changes that would exempt in-home caregivers from the requirement.

The Brown administration estimated that including such workers would cost the state approximately $106 million per year.

Following the bill’s passage, Brown weighed in with his support.

“Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hard-working Californians,” he said in a statement. “This bill guarantees that millions of workers — from Eureka to San Diego — won’t lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick.”

The governor’s office said it supported the scaled-back proposal. But leaving out caregivers caused angst among some liberal Democrats.

“This is frankly unacceptable as a proposal and is not worthy of our support this evening,” said Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles). “This create a two-class system and leads to income inequality.”

Business groups also opposed the measure. But the California Chamber of Commerce on Friday announced it no longer designated the bill, AB 1522, a “job killer,” meaning it was no longer a top lobbying target.

The measure passed in the Senate on a 22-8 vote and then got final approval in the Assembly 50-20. It now goes to the governor.

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