Last week, the Austin City Council voted to become the first city in Texas, and the first in the entire South, to mandate that all employers offer paid sick leave. More than 200 people testified in favor of the measure, which received a final vote of 9-2.
Some 87,000 workers are expected to receive new benefits under the ordinance. Businesses with less than 15 employees will be required to provide 48 hours, or six full eight hour work days, of paid sick leave and all other private employers will be required to provide 64 hours of leave. Employees will earn their sick leave at a rate of one hour earned per 30 hours worked.
The move is expected to spark a power struggle between the progressive city council and the extremely conservative state legislature and governor. Some have already promised to pass legislation that could block the municipality from carrying out the initiative, a task that might prove difficult as the ordinance will go into effect before the legislature reconvenes in January 2019.
The Mayor of Austin is calling on other cities to pass similar measures before the legislature can block it, and a Dallas city councilor has already pledged to move forward with a paid sick leave ordinance.
Austin joins the ranks of dozens of cities that have passed mandatory paid sick leave including Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. A number of states have also passed paid sick leave laws including Connecticut and California.
In a survey of women living in poverty or at the edge of poverty, 90 percent said paid sick leave would be even more beneficial to their lives than an increased minimum wage, largely because it would guarantee they would not be fired for taking time off to care for sick children. The United States is the only developed nation in the world not to guarantee paid sick leave.
Media Resources: The Statesman 2/16/18; The American Prospect 2/21/18