The push for paid sick leave reaches San Antonio

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San Antonio paid sick leave

Rather than leave it to a vote of the City Council as it was done in Austin, advocates pushing to force businesses in San Antonio to offer paid sick leave to their workers are working to put the question to all voters in November.

Volunteers for two groups, the Texas Organizing Project and Working Texans for Paid Sick Time were out in force on runoff election day (Tuesday) gathering signatures on a petition.

Mary Moreno with the Texas Organizing Project told The Texas Monitor Wednesday afternoon that the groups intended to deliver more than 66,000 signatures on petitions to City Hall for verification Thursday morning. Based on the number of registered voters in the city, more than 75,000 verified signatures are needed to get paid sick leave on the ballot Nov. 6.

The groups are also circulating a similar petition in Dallas.

Although the ballot language has not yet been written, it is expected that voters will be asked to give the city the authority to direct all local businesses to provide up to eight working days or 64 hours of sick leave with pay, as was passed by the Austin City Council in mid-February.

The Austin City Council also agreed to a compromise that allowed businesses with 15 or fewer employees to offer a maximum of six days or 48 hours of paid sick leave.

The vote prompted the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future to file a lawsuit on behalf of several prominent business groups in Austin. Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an intervening plea in support of a lawsuit and Gov. Greg Abbott said he supported a change in the state law, if necessary, to preempt Austin or San Antonio’s local overreach.

Michelle Tremillo, executive director for the Texas Organizing Project, said advocates decided early on to bypass the City Council and take paid sick leave directly to the voters.

“We’re taking this to the voters because this campaign is going to be fought and won by the people of San Antonio,” Tremillo told the Rivard Report in March. “This is not just about winning an ordinance but about engaging San Antonians in reimagining our city as a progressive, inclusive, and welcoming city where everyone has a chance at opportunity and success.”

In most other ways, the effort is patterned after Austin, which became the first city in Texas and one of the few outside of the East Coast to have passed a paid sick leave ordinance.

Like the council members who pushed the ordinance on the Austin City Council, advocates in San Antonio have asked for almost no input from the city’s business community, Richard Perez, president of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, told The Texas Monitor Wednesday.

“We had not gotten a single call, email or text asking us for our input,” Perez said.

The chamber has not yet done any study to estimate what paid sick leave would cost in additional overhead, or the possibility of reducing the workforce to cover the additional costs, Perez said.

“It’s expensive and there are lot of things business has to deal with already … particularly a business that has high turnover,” he told the Rivard Report. “If you provide sick leave and the employee uses it and then leaves, it’s a tough thing for a business to deal with.”

In a letter to the City Council, Perez explained that San Antonio is a city built by small businesses that need to have the flexibility to decide if they can afford to offer paid sick leave to their employees.

Fairway Landscape and Nursery, the business Perez’ father started in 1969, could not afford paid sick leave, nor could most of the other landscaping businesses that depend on small profit margins to survive, Perez said.

“We had a meeting of our board the other day and about 75 of our members were there and not one of them indicated that they want something like this,” Perez said. “Not one.”

The San Antonio Manufacturers Association also issued a statement in opposition to making paid sick leave mandatory.

The drives for paid sick leave in both Austin and San Antonio received boosts from hastily published studies produced by advocates. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research published a study on its website on May 8 estimating that 354,000 or 39 percent of the city’s private workforce are in need of paid sick leave. The study was built from two earlier national studies based on surveys, with numbers extrapolated for San Antonio.

“It is absolutely confirmation of what we already know, just from knocking on doors and talking to voters every day,” Tremillo recently told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s just further proof that it’s critical to have a policy ensuring that all working families in San Antonio have access to take care of themselves or a loved one when they’re sick.”

Work Strong Austin, a progressive coalition, came up with its estimate of 223,000 or 37 percent of workers who needed sick leave in Austin, but did not explain how it arrived at that figure.

Perez, who served a two-term limit on the San Antonio City Council from 2003 to 2007, said the current council’s drive to get paid sick leave passed “comes from a good place.”

“We have a progressive City Council and I mean that in the best way possible. They want to do the right thing,” he said. “But if you don’t have a robust business community you are not doing what’s best for the overall community in San Antonio.”

Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].

28 COMMENTS

  1. No its not Communism.
    Its Fascism
    Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce.
    Either way no vote = no rights
    You may agree with this one issue but wait till they take your rights away and you don’t have a say in something your invested in. Hitler came into power and one of the things he promised was social reform getting the people paid the money the government owed them. Just because something is good does not mean it is right to loose r give away your rights EVER

  2. None of you people are hitting on the real problem.. If I am SICK and CANNOT call in sick.. then you have a SICK employee working. Believe me I work in a business.. that is NOT a small business.. they hire Thousands of employees all over the country… and do not give raises at all.. And no sick leave… matter of fact they write you up if you call in sick and they don’t accept doctors notes. When I was told by my Supervisor that we do not have sick time.. do not get paid sick leave..or any excused sick leave… I told him.. don’t worry… if I had the plague and was severely contagious I was still going to show up at work… because I can’t afford to take a day off without pay.. and if I’m Sick you all will be sick.

  3. The cost to most small businesses for employers paying $10 per hour or less would be around $400 per year per employee. If a business can’t absorb or pass on this $400, then they are not doing well in business. Who wants a sick employee infecting the rest of your staff or your customers?

    • My goodness you can multiply. However the additional cost is far beyond $400 yes. Replacement workers, lost opportunity and other issues that a little education would teach you about would not make this is a simple multiplication issue but a complex management issue. Also if an employee didn’t want to work a Rush season like New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Fiesta they get sick. Any request for sick leave should also be accompanied by a requirement to have a doctor statement.

    • Ted Rohling I run a business and the cost of giving your employees sick leave is minimal when you compare it to the costs of your entire workforce being sick or your employees infecting your customers. Besides, its the right thing to do. A minimal cost to help retain good employees (which costs money to replace when they leave because of no benefits).

  4. Too bad the citizens of SA were robbed of making a little extra money working for the republican convention but then city leadership doesn’t care about the citizens only the politics

  5. I’m just gonna come out and say it. If your small business can’t survive in the fastest growing city in the country without docking your workers pay for taking a sick day, you’re not good enough at this. Find something else you don’t suck at and do that.

    • If you want paid sick leave, find a job that provides it. How about that??? Nobody is forced to keep a job that they don’t like. Better yet Jason, take a chance and start your own small business. You would learn very quickly why this will not work. 💰

    • D’Anne Thompson one click would show you that I do run a small business, which is why I know you’ve gotta be a shitty businessman to be killed by a 2-3% increase in labor costs. It’s not about entitlement, it’s about basic human decency and understanding that we live in a society. Do you really want to go to a business that has a sick person making your food??

    • D’Anne Thompson For most small businesses, the cost would be around $400-500 per year per employee. Surely a business can absorb or pass along that small amount without going broke. Sick employees infect other employees and your customers.

    • Jason Katims
      This would be very difficult for the restaurant industry; A law firm, not so much. I just don’t like regulations that force out small businesses. What a business can and cannot afford is up to that particular business, not the voters. Just my opinion Jason.

    • D’Anne Thompson. Don’t forget that Restaurants are only required to pay servers $2.13/hr, they don’t have to make up missed tips. If a server took all 64 sick hours in a year, that would be $136.32 per employee per year or about $11 a month per employee, max. We already make restaurants put up those “employees must wash hands” signs. Small compromises have to be made to live in a safe and productive society. None of our freedoms is absolute.

    • D’Anne, why should the voters not have a say on basic working conditions? The restaurant benefits from being in the city: roads and infrastructure to get people and supplies to the location, the existence of a vast market of potential customers, and yes, access to a labor force. As part of those benefits from locating a business in a big city, there are regulations: health codes, zoning regulations, fire codes, and labor laws. Given that a restaurant prepares food, it is a matter of public health to ensure a sick worker has the ability to take a sick day without a penalty, rather than having to go into work and make you an Influenza Sandwich!

  6. San Antonio better think twice about what this would do to the many, many small business mom & pop (mostly Hispanic), restaurants in San Antonio as far as profits and cost.

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