This week, the Austin City Council voted 9-2 to approve a paid sick days ordinance, taking a major step toward guaranteeing paid sick days for all Austinites, including more than 210,000 who currently cannot earn such time. The Work Strong Austin coalition – including the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Workers Defense Project, as well as groups in the reproductive health, rights and justice movement, including the Lilith Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas – led the way to victory, persevering in the face of corporate opposition and threats from some state lawmakers to undermine the measure.
Led by Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, the council has paved the way for yet another victory in the growing list of state and local paid sick days laws that have dramatically increased access to the common sense protection in the past few years. When Mayor Steve Adler signs the measure into law, Austin will become the 42nd jurisdiction – and the first in the South – to guarantee paid sick days. The new ordinance will allow all working people in Austin to earn up to six or eight paid sick days per year, depending on the size of their employers, to recover from an illness, care for a family member or address issues related to domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. Paid sick days also allow women to seek reproductive health care, including abortion care, without losing a paycheck.
This latest paid sick days victory is good news for workers and their families, public health, businesses and the economy. According to a new analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research it will also save Austin’s businesses and the community millions of dollars each year. State and local progress like this is leading the way toward a national standard, while improving the lives of workers, the health of communities and the strength of the economy.
More than 37 million people across the country still cannot earn a single paid sick day, despite the progress of recent years. That is why it is essential that Congress pass the Healthy Families Act, a real paid sick days proposal that would establish a national standard that covers all working people, no matter where they live or work – instead of considering efforts to sabotage paid sick days protections and hard-fought victories. Because when workers don’t have to choose between their health or the health of a loved one and a job, everyone benefits.