FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 4, 2017
Contact: Sam Robles
Work Strong Austin Launches Earned Paid Sick Campaign
Advocates and Business Owners to ask City Council to pass Earned Paid Sick Days
9/28: City Council to consider resolution for stakeholder process
AUSTIN, TX – Today, Work Strong Austin, a coalition of working families and community groups, along with small businesses, labor organizations, human services agencies, and elected officials announced the launch of a city-wide campaign for earned paid sick days. Approximately 223,000 Austin worker, 37% of the total workforce, are at risk of losing wages or being fired if they follow doctor’s orders when they or a family member is ill.
“Austin workers are building our highrises, they are welcoming travelers to our city, and they help drive our city’s economy and health,” said Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project. “And at the same time Austin workers are struggling to pay their bills, they are struggling to pay rent, they are struggling to provide for their children. They are working harder and harder every single day only to be left behind by this growing city.”
Work Strong Austin believes the Austin City Council has an opportunity to advance an earned sick days ordinance that will benefit the Austin economy and provide significant improvements in the health and financial stability of all Austinites.
“For many Texas households currently struggling to cover basic expenses, days of lost pay due to illness can lead to financial turmoil,” said Ann Beeson, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “CPPP is proud to support this community effort to ensure that all Austin workers can earn paid sick days so they can care for themselves and their families.”
Access to earn paid sick time varies on occupation. State and local government workers are more likely than private sector workers to earn paid sick time. 65% to 75% of workers in construction, service, and maintenance are left without access to earn paid sick and poverty wages, which makes it difficult for them to afford to take unpaid time off when they or a family member are sick.
“I was injured while working on a city bridge, I fell 14 feet and injured my back and neck. I couldn’t afford to take a day off, I had to keep working.” said Serafin Miranda, Construction worker of 15 years and Workers Defense Project Member. “I had surgery and now I can’t work. My injury ultimately cost me my construction career.”
“I work full-time hours but I’m not considered full-time. I can make $15 an hour but if I have to pay all my medical bills out-of-pocket, I’m not really making that. I have a health condition I’ll die with.,” said Julius Casey, Church’s worker with Type I diabetes and Fight For $15 member. “I have to take a day off work each month to see my doctor, and I’m not getting paid for that. Missing one day of work makes the difference between each medical bill.”
“I believe every worker in Austin should have the right to take off work when they or their loved ones are sick,” said Darnell Franklin, Sky Chef worker and UNITE HERE Member. “and not be felt in their paycheck because of it.
“Working people are fed up with being forced to work for poverty wages, especially when they or their loved ones are sick,” said Amanda Cavazos Weems, Young Active Labor Leaders in Austin (YALL). “We demand the freedom to organize in union for the paid sick leave that we earn everyday.”
This policy, if passed, could also benefit families that are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
“SAFE wants survivors to feel empowered to stop the cycle of abuse and seek support that helps them live confidently,” said Julia Spann, President of The SAFE Alliance. “Paid safe and sick days would help protect domestic violence survivors, sexual violence survivors, and parents caring for children who have suffered abuse by providing much needed financial stability.”
The city-wide campaign will ask the Austin City Council to consider a resolution for a stakeholder process on September 28th. The council agenda will be made public on September 15th and can be viewed here.