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San Antonio Paid Sick Leave Update

Written by on July 23, 2018

For the 49% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, missing a day of work (and the equivalent pay) is inconceivable—even if they’re too sick to work. Mandatory paid sick leave is a simple yet essential measure that can be taken to protect the backbone of our great city from plunging into illness-induced debt and poverty. Right now, paid sick leave is a luxury—a luxury 39% of working San Antonians don’t have. This, in essence, leverages the financial footing of these working San Antonians and their families entirely on their ability to avoid serious illness.

Austin, so far, is the first and only city in Texas to have passed an ordinance mandating paid sick leave. Their ordinance provides citizens with one day of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with the amount of sick leave capped at 60 hours total for large employers and 48 hours for businesses with 15 or fewer workers.

AFL-CIO’s Linda Chavez Thompson addresses the crowd after delivering a record 144,000 signatures in support of mandatory paid sick leave to City Hall (Photo: Sanford Nowlin, SA Current)

Worker advocacy groups in San Antonio have put the countdown city on track to follow Austin’s lead. Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, in conjunction with other activism organizations, successfully focused their efforts toward an all-out offensive to place city-wide mandatory sick leave on the ballot this November. They gathered a record 144,000 signatures in support of the proposition, the most signatures ever collected for a San Antonio initiative.

Yet, as San Antonio pushes toward progress, Republican leadership in the Texas state government is raising hell to keep us locked into the past. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, following Governor Greg Abbott’s pro-poverty directives, has thrown the state’s support behind a lawsuit taking aim at Austin’s mandatory sick leave ordinance.

How does AG Ken Paxton feel about workers earning paid sick leave?

“The Austin City Council’s disdain and blatant disregard for the rule of law is an attempt to unlawfully and inappropriately usurp the authority of the state lawmakers chosen by Texas voters and must be stopped,” Paxton claimed in his official justification for the suit.

You would think that the City of Austin had issued an ordinance declaring their independence from Texas. The Austin City Council hates the rule of law, because they made paid sick leave mandatory? Austin, in a supposed coup, is attempting to usurp the authority of the state’s legislature?

Paxton and his fellow Republicans in state government have shamelessly (and publicly) demonstrated their vitriol and open hostility towards the disadvantaged and impoverished in a completely inappropriate manner.

In their strawman world, San Antonio mega-employers such as Toyota, Rackspace, and Clear Channel are barely getting by—and incapable of funding paid sick leave. They would have you believe that these multibillion dollar, hugely profitable corporations would be unable to stay afloat in a world so unjust that they have to provide their loyal and underpaid workforce a singular day of sick leave.

Or maybe—just maybe—this is their donors speaking through them. Why pay millions in campaign contributions if you can’t flex your muscles and sway elected officials to keep your employees disenfranchised in financial bondage?

Austin’s ordinance survived the first legal challenge posed by the ongoing suit, as a Travis County Judge ruled against an injunction that would have postponed its October 1 implementation date. Nonetheless, the case is set to proceed to trial in the upcoming months.

San Antonio, when the ordinance is inevitably passed by local citizens, is likely to be targeted with a similar lawsuit.

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