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Dozens of Los Angeles Workers and Caregivers Unite to Demand for More Paid Sick Leave in California
LOS ANGELES—On Tuesday, dozens of workers, caregivers, leaders and advocates from 14 organizations rallied in Los Angeles to call on California elected leaders to pass SB 616, which would require California employers to provide seven, rather than three, paid sick days per year.
SB 616, introduced by Senator Lena Gonzalez (District 33), would safeguard public health by ensuring that California workers do not have to choose between their health or their loved ones’ health and paying the bills. During the rally, Sen. Gonzalez said the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave made it clear California can make more paid sick days work.
“All workers in our state deserve to take the time off they need to recover and take care of themselves and their families when they get sick,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). “During the pandemic we saw the immensely positive outcomes of having COVID-related sick leave, preventing more outbreaks in workplaces, averting prolonged illness amongst employees, and maintaining workplace productivity. We all made it work out with ten days of paid sick leave then, so we can do it now too, we can absolutely do it. Ensuring the health and safety of workers should be just as important now as it was when we were at the height of the pandemic. Three days of sick leave is just not enough.”
Current California state law requires employers to allow their employees to earn and use three paid sick days per year. Several states, including Washington, Arizona, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut all provide more paid sick days than California.
Some cities in California, including Los Angeles, have passed more protective ordinances than current state law. However, advocates made the case for a statewide paid sick days standard with an adequate number of paid sick days because every worker in California deserves the same right to paid sick leave.
A recording of the rally can be found here and photos can be found here. Please note that audio issues are resolved after 6:14 in the livestream. The participating organizations included California Coalition on Family Caregiving, California Work & Family Coalition, Caring Across Generations, CLEAN Carwash Worker Center, Fight for $15, LAANE, Leap of Faith, Leeza’s Care Connection, Liberty Ecosystem, Public Counsel, UFCW 770, UFCW Western States Council, SEIU California and Small Business Majority.
“When workers run out of paid sick days, they are forced to choose between going to work sick and not being able to meet their most basic human needs, such as paying rent and buying food and medicine. Absolutely no one should face this choice,” said Juan Carlos, Senior Campaign Organizer at Caring Across Generations. “Paid sick days are especially critical for underpaid workers, many of whom are Black, Brown and immigrant women in rapidly gentrifying communities, who are less likely to have access to the paid sick days they need and deserve. Paid sick days are crucial to helping keep families financially secure, workplaces and communities healthy and productive, and businesses and the economy strong.”
“Three paid sick and safe days per year is just not enough for anyone to recover from their own illness, much less care for a family member. That’s why we’re calling on the state legislature and the Governor to pass and sign SB 616 into law. California workers need seven paid sick days right now,” said Katie Duberg, Political Organizing Director, California Work & Family Coalition.
“Senate Bill 616 would allow home care workers like me to earn and use seven paid sick days rather than three each year. This is so important to the caregiver’s field. As a care provider, sick pay helps us to take better care of our recipients, since having to work while sick actually puts them in more jeopardy of risk,” said Michelle Reed, member of SEIU local 2015. “Just last year I had to go to work on a day when my asthma was acting up in the middle of the pandemic, no less, and because of needing the money I had to go to work. Accrued sick pay would really help to make matters better. My client lives [up] 15 flights of stairs that I had to walk up. By the time I got up the stairs I was out of breath and could hardly breathe but I had to continue my work.”
“These issues don’t operate in a silo. If you’re not able to take paid sick leave you’re less likely to recover, you’re more likely to get sicker, requiring more time to recover. Staying home without a paycheck reduces the amount of money you earn, jeopardizing your ability to pay the rent, leading potentially to eviction,” said Damien Goodmon, Liberty Ecosystem. “We firmly believe that liberating our communities, improving the quality of conditions for all marginalized people requires being intentionally focused on Black folk, and when you lift up Black folk, everybody rises.”
“As a small business owner, I’m happy to support SB 616 because I care about the health and well-being of my staff,” said Catherean Mitchell, co-founder and owner of Mitchells Transport. “Small Business Majority research has found that most California small business owners support expanding guaranteed annual paid sick days from three to seven. Increasing paid sick days is not only the right thing to do, but it also levels the playing field with bigger businesses that can undercut small businesses on costs and the number of benefits offered. This bill makes sense. I hope policymakers will advance efforts to help keep the small business workplace healthy and thriving while saving healthcare costs for the state.”
“The importance of paid sick and safe days to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and to domestic violence survivors and communities is two-fold — SB 616 will both support survivors currently experiencing violence and can prevent future violence from occurring. Economic stress increases the risk of violence, and by providing paid time off when people are sick we can reduce this stress and reduce the likelihood for abuse. California’s paid sick days are also paid safe days for job-protected time off for survivors to address the various needs to establish their safety after abuse. We know that accessing services to escape and heal from violence as a survivor requires time and resources. Whether it’s taking the time to make important therapy or court appointments, or having a safety net during stressful times, three paid days of leave is simply not enough. We can do better! We call on our elected leaders to pass SB 616 and take this step towards workplace and economic equity for survivors of domestic and other forms of violence along with all Californians,” said Melodie Kruspodin, Prevention Specialist at California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.
“I work in the City of Los Angeles where my fellow union members fought to pass an ordinance that requires employers to provide six paid sick days, but even those six days are not enough for workers,” said UFCW 770 member Gustavo Canez, a grocery store worker who suffers from long-Covid and needs to see the doctor more often.
“Back in March, I was sick and I was in and out of the emergency room for a week, and this put me out of work. My recovery took much longer because I didn’t have enough sick days and had to return back to work. Having seven days of sick pay would have allowed me to recover fully and not stress about being able to pay my rent…However, this is not an isolated incident. Many service and retail workers across California face the same stress and anxiety and have to go to work sick, which in turn can get people around them sick,” said Alondra, a retail worker.
“Speaking as a fast food worker with 20 years of experience in this industry, I know that we have some of the lowest wages of all workers, and we’re one of the fastest-growing and largest industries in California,” said Rosangela Banuelos, McDonald’s worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union. “Our wages are so low that many of my colleagues across the fast food industry live in our cars; every dollar that we earn can make a difference with us ending up on the streets and being another homeless statistic; every dollar we earn makes the difference in our nutrition, feeding ourselves and our families.”
“I only have three paid sick days, and I’m finding myself taking care of my mom, who has leukemia…It is late July and I have already used my three paid sick days. It happened in the first week of March, and I did not take those paid sick days for myself, I took them so that I could take my mom to the hospital or be with her at her bedside,” said Taylor Smith, an unpaid family caregiver. “For the last two years we have been on a rollercoaster of highs and lows and my mom has been in and out of the hospital for two years. Her longest stay was 6 weeks. Recently, we waited thirty-six hours in the emergency room to get her a bed and treatment. So that’s thirty-six hours that I can’t do any work, I can’t be at work…plus the stress of wondering whether or not your loved one is going to pass in front of you.”
Caring Across Generations is a national organization of family caregivers, care workers, disabled people, and aging adults working to transform the way we care in this country so that care is accessible, affordable and equitable— and our systems of care enable everyone to live and age with dignity.
To achieve our vision, we transform cultural norms and narratives about aging, disability and care; win federal and state-level policies; and build power amongst the people touched by care. For more information, visit CARINGACROSS.ORG.