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San José City Councilmembers introduce paid sick leave policy to respond to COVID-19

March 13, 2020

All working people need to be able to take paid time off if they or their family gets sick, especially as we deal with COVID-19.

In this crucial moment, cities across Santa Clara County must protect our communities and our health. No one should have to choose between making rent and taking care of their family.

This morning, San José City Councilmembers Maya Esparza, Magdalena Carrasco, and Sylvia Arenas took action, introducing the strongest paid sick leave policy in the nation.

We, along with health, housing, small business, labor, workers rights, and community organizations, are calling on all cities in Santa Clara County to join San José and ensure that everyone can take paid sick days when they need them, now and permanently.

Far too many people here have no choice but to keep working while sick. A 2014 study found that 1 in 3 workers in San José had no sick days (some may now have three days under a newer state law, but that's far from enough for this crisis). These are the people who cook and serve us food, care for our children and seniors, and clean our buildings — and who are disproportionately women and people of color.

Lack of paid sick leave has serious consequences for our public health. Researchers found that during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak, roughly 30% of sick employees had to keep working, and may have infected up to 7 million more people as a result.

As Santa Clara County grapples with some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation, our cities must act. We've done this before, when our cities took a first-in-the-nation regional approach to raising the minimum wage.

Now we must join together again to protect our communities, workers, and families — both during the current outbreak and for the years to come.