San José advances paid sick leave

March 26, 2020

Ensuring that everyone has paid sick days is a vital part of how we flatten the COVID-19 curve and prevent our medical system from being overloaded.

Yesterday, the San José City Council rules committee took an important step to protect public health, voting to advance a paid sick leave ordinance to the full Council.

Many of the people doing essential jobs right now — Doordash drivers, restaurant chefs, pharmacists, and corner store clerks — face impossible choices between going to work sick and putting food on the table.

It brings us hope to see the Mayor and Council are acting to ensure that the people on the front lines of this crisis can stay home and seek care if they get sick.

The proposal will now go to a special meeting of the full Council on April 1, and then a final vote is expected on April 7. We're calling on the Council to pass a strong urgency ordinance that covers everyone serving us during this crisis, including people working for gig corporations and small businesses.

Through the newly signed federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, small businesses will be fully repaid for providing sick leave through a refundable payroll tax credit. Carve outs in the federal law exclude corporations with over 500 employees and allow exemptions for many small businesses, meaning up to 80% of the nation’s workforce isn’t covered.

This is why it’s so critical for our cities to step up. As San José moves forward, other cities in our region should act as well. This virus does not stop at city boundaries, and our response must be collective as well.

This crisis highlights the permanent need for paid sick days. While focusing on urgent measures is understandable in this moment, as we move forward our elected leaders should ensure that working people do not lose paid sick days when the current state of emergency ends.

Thank you to Councilmembers Arenas, Carrasco, and Esparza for your leadership on this issue; to the broad coalition of health, housing, small business, and community organizations who sent letters of support; and to the thousands of you who amplified the call for paid sick days through petition signatures and phone calls.

In just two weeks, amidst an already hectic time, we came together to protect our community and the essential workers keeping us safe, fed, and cared for. In the coming weeks, we must all continue to step up to get this proposal over the finish line, expand sick days to other cities, and take the additional steps called for by this moment.

We will pull through this by pulling together.