Over 140,000 petition signatures requesting paid sick leave for workers across San Antonio were hand-delivered to City Hall Thursday. Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, a coalition of grassroots organizations from across the state, is pushing for the measure.
The proposed citizen-driven ordinance calls for six to eight days of paid sick time per year offered to employees of any business in San Antonio or the business would face a $500 civil fine per violation.
A crowd of about 50 people gathered on the steps of City Hall surrounded by a several dozen boxes filled with petitions, chanting messages like “San Antonio hear our call; paid sick leave for all.”
Joleen Garci, a community organizer with Working Texans, says for some households, missing work can make or break some budgets.
“It’s that close right now for working families, where you miss a day of work and you’re out a day’s food, or you’re out a portion of your rent,” said Garcia, adding the ordinance would be justice for workers that is long overdue.
WATCH | Joleen Garcia, of Working Texans, talks about the need for paid sick time
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) May 24, 2018
The proposed ordinance would apply to any business that performs 80 hours of work a year within San Antonio. It would make it mandatory for businesses with 15 employees or less to offer six days or of paid sick time per year. Employers with more workers would be required to offer eight days of paid sick time.
The coalition lists personal health issues or health issues of family members as what would qualify for sick time, and also another provision as if the employee or a family member “needs to receive medical attention, take legal action, move, or obtain other victim services related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.”
District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana has been heavily supportive of the measure. The councilman said he would have attended Thursday’s petition delivery but he was out the country. “(There) is no more important … policy for the everyday San Antonian,” he said via text message.
The measure is facing some business opposition. San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez says he couldn’t be supportive of the ordinance at the moment.
“At its worst, it could cause businesses to close, and I think there’s a level of pain, if you will, and it could cause businesses to scale back because of the cost to implement such a system and I think there’s varying degrees of what this thing could to do hurt businesses,” Perez said.
WATCH | Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez discusses the petition drive
San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez says he disagrees with the sick leave petition drive adding it would be harmful to small businesses in San Antonio. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/xrITiPbrac
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) May 24, 2018
He said it should be up to each individual business to determine what their sick leave policies should be.
“I think the alternative is what we have now and that is: Businesses can provide the benefits they can provide based their ability and their bottom line and their profit margins,” he said.
The city’s charter allows for new ordinances that have not been considered by the Council to be submitted with a petition. The ordinance would be then be sent to the voters. To be eligible for the ballot, the number of signatures would need to reach 10 percent of the number of registered voters at the time of the last municipal election. Signatories must live in San Antonio.
According to Bexar County election records from the 2017 municipal election, in the May election, there were 699,496 registered San Antonio voters and 703,021 in the June run-off. It wasn’t immediately clear which number the city would use, said county election officials. With those figures, about half of the submitted 140,000 signatures would need to be deemed valid by the city clerk’s office in order to be on the November ballot.
The Austin City Council passed a similar measure in February mandating paid sick leave. The decision came under scrutiny from Austin businesses, which filed suit in April. The Texas Attorney General’s office joined the suit earlier this month.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules