Santa Rosa and the County of Sonoma are now considering mandating 10 working days emergency paid sick leave for any worker, employed at least two hours a week inside city limits or in the unincorporated areas of the county, who is affected by Covid-19.
The purpose of the legislation proposed by labor and community organizations is to close the loophole in the federal “Family First Coronavirus Response Act” that provides 10 days of paid sick leave but exempts firms with more than 500 employees. Employers receive a payroll tax credit to offset the cost of paid sick leave.
Only one in four workers employed by some of the nation’s largest employers such as Holiday Inn, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Burger King, Old Navy, Appleby’s and Family Dollar receive paid sick leave, according to a study by the UC Berkeley Shift Project.
Emergency paid sick leave is necessary for the public health strategy to successfully curb the coronavirus. All California workers are entitled to at least three days accrued paid sick leave annually. However, according to the Pew Charitable Trust, 90 percent of the highest-paid private-sector workers (earning above $32 an hour) have access to employer-provided paid sick leave beyond the state minimum, but only 30 percent of the lowest-paid workers (earning less than $12 an hour) receive any paid sick leave at all from their employer.
Most low-wage workers cannot work from home, and most cannot afford to forego a day’s pay by staying home when ill. If an employee of a company providing essential services (such as grocery, pharmacy, food delivery, retail, home care, child care and health care) reports to work while sick, they may infect customers, patients, clients or their fellow workers. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 60 percent of restaurant and foodservice workers reported working when sick, and half claimed they did so because they lacked paid sick leave.
The cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and the County of Los Angeles have all approved 10 days paid emergency sick leave. Santa Rosa and the County should, too.
No worker should have to choose between working when sick or taking unpaid sick days!
Please sign the change.org petition: “Sonoma County 14 days Emergency Paid Sick Leave.”
Martin J. Bennett is Instructor Emeritus of History at Santa Rosa Junior College and a member of North Bay Jobs With Justice.