By Francine Busby / San Diego Democratic Party
We’ve all been sick. I have been flattened by illnesses that have rendered me completely useless. I have had to miss work to stay home with a sick child when they can barely get out of bed, let alone function in a classroom. I have received those dreaded phone calls informing me of a family member with a medical emergency. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and our health or the health of our families has to take priority.
When we think of man’s inhumanity to man, we don’t usually think of employees who risk losing wages or even a job if they are too sick to go work or if they need to care for a sick child. At the moment, 40 million workers (38% of the American workforce) lack any paid sick leave, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. The United States is the only developed country in the world without laws requiring access to paid sick leave.
But we’re making progress. On July 1, California will join the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts in guaranteeing paid sick leave. The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522) arrives courtesy of San Diego’s own Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the new law. Starting this week, California’s private-sector employees are entitled to receive paid sick leave as long as they work 30 or more days a year, with a guarantee that they can use at least three sick days per year.
A study from the Center on Policy Initiatives showed that 279,000 employees in San Diego would benefit from access to earned sick time. Earned sick leave will increase workplace productivity, save costs through reduced employee turnover, boost income for families, reduce the transmission of disease, and lower healthcare costs.
Earned sick leave will also help close the gender gap. Studies show that mothers are more likely than fathers to take time off work to care for sick children and aging family members. Access to sick days without the loss of pay or risk of losing employment will increase flexibility for these women.
Last year the Democratic leadership on the San Diego City Council, led by then-Council President Todd Gloria, fought hard to pass a minimum wage increase and earned sick leave ordinance. Even stronger than the new state law, the local ordinance would have required employers to provide their workers with five days of paid sick leave per year.
Unfortunately, special interests and big money stopped the law’s implementation by manipulating the referendum process. They invested millions in a campaign against paid sick leave rather than investing in the increased productivity and health of workers.
Voters in the City of San Diego will have the last word one year from now, when they weigh in on the referendum to enact the ordinance. I’m confident that they’ll see past the opposition campaign of scare tactics and lies – and that they’ll ultimately do the right thing by ensuring better wages and earned sick leave for local working families.