CA becomes second state to require paid sick leave, but some workers excluded

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the  Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families bill (AB 1522) on August 10, California became only the second state in the US to require most employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

Advocates estimate that 6.5 million Californians who now work without sick leave benefits will be covered by the new law.

In a last minute deal between Gov. Brown and Assembly member  Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s sponsor, 385,000 home health care workers for the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program were exempted from coverage.

A broad spectrum of labor unions, whose members by and large already have paid sick leave, supported the bill.

Two unions representing home health care workers, AFSCME’s United Domestic Workers, and SEIU’s United Long Term Care Workers withdrew their support after the deal between Gov. Brown and Assembly member Gonzalez was announced.

The bill requires employers to allow workers to accumulate three sick days a year. It covers all workers who have been on the job for 90 days including temporary and part-time workers.

Paid sick leave can be used when an employee is sick or to care for a sick family member, including domestic partners.

“By signing this important bill into law, the Governor put an end to the cruel Hobson’s choice that more than 6.5 million workers face when deciding whether to go to work sick or lose wages that keep food on the table for their families,” said Art Pulaski, executive secretary treasurer of the California AFL-CIO. “This law protects workers and consumers and is vital to public health.”

California joins Connecticut as he second state in the US to require employers to provide paid sick leave.

On the same day that Gov. Brown signed the California paid sick day law, Patterson, New Jersey passed a city ordinance similar to California’s new law.

Patterson joins other New Jersey cities, including Passaic, Newark, East Orange, and Jersey City, that have passed paid sick leave ordinances.

San Francisco, Oakland, New York City, and Seattle also have paid sick leave ordinances.

The World Health Organization reports that paid sick leave is a key component of decent work,” but the US remains the lone wealthy nation in the world that does not require employers to provide paid sick leave.

US House Member Rosa Delauro introduced a paid sick leave bill in the US House of Representatives, but Republicans prevented a vote from being taken on the bill.

Businesses have argued that requiring paid sick leave would result in higher business costs and job cuts, but the dire warnings have been unfounded.

The Center for Economic Policy Research examined the impact that paid sick leave had on business in Connecticut, which implemented the requirement two years ago.

“Most employers reported a modest impact or no impact of the law on their costs or business operations, and they typically found that the administrative burden was minimal,” said the CERP report on its findings.  “. . . A year and a half after its implementation, more than three-quarters of surveyed employers expressed support for the earned paid sick leave law.”

Despite benefits of paid sick leave, Gov. Brown told Assembly member Gonzalez that he would sign AB 1522 only if the state’s home health care workers were excluded from coverage.

The state contracts with home health care workers to provide in-home care to more than 400,000 elderly and disabled people. The in-home care helps the elderly and disabled stay out of nursing homes.

The unions representing home health care workers called the decision to exclude home health care workers an act of disrespect.

“By excluding hundreds of thousands of home care workers through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program, AB 1522 has effectively created a second class of workers in our state,” said Doug Moore, executive director of United Domestic Workers (AFSCME). “Rather than show courage, lawmakers have denied dignity to caregivers and the seniors and people with disabilities they serve.”

“Caregivers, predominantly women and people of color, deserve the same rights as every other worker,” said Laphonza Butler, president of United Long Term Care Workers (SEIU). “I thought we in California were past the point of debate on such a basic matter of equality and dignity.”

Butler and Moore said that including home health care workers in the paid sick leave law would become their priority when the California Legislature reconvenes.

Pulaski said that it would be a priority of the state AFL-CIO as well.

“California’s unions won’t rest until every single worker in our state receives equal access to paid sick days,” said Pulaski. “Home care workers, like all workers, deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days on the job. We’ll continue to fight for In-Home Supportive Services workers to ensure that California treats all workers with fairness and dignity.”

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