The issue of paid sick leave for workers in San Antonio has crossed an important threshold. Over 70,000 required signatures from petitions were certified by the San Antonio City Council Thursday.
Now, it’s up to the Council to decide whether to create an ordinance or leave it up to voters during the midterm elections. The City Council has until Aug. 20 to decide what steps to take next.
The initiative, started by the group Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, guarantees employees’ paid sick leave based on time worked and the size of the organization, said Alex Birnel, one of the organizers.
“It’s women; it’s young people; it’s people of color,” he said. “That’s the new working class. They don’t have paid sick time in those industries. We want to get them covered. It’s health justice.”
Birnel says about 354,000 San Antonians work without paid sick time options according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Part of the initiative calls for sick time to be available for workers after 80 hours worked per calendar year. Those workers would be eligible to accumulate one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, according to organizers.
It’s an active morning at the first meeting of city council after it’s usually July recess. On the agenda today is certifying paid sick leave petitions. Outside members of @WorkingTexans For Paid Sick Leave hold a rally. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/6mgkJd2bfc
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) August 2, 2018
Outside the City Council chambers, supporters called out to council members as they arrived for Thursday’s meeting. “When you get 140,000 signatures on a petition, I think that’s a strong message for us to hear in a city,” District 9 Councilman John Courage said.
To get the issue in front of City Council, petitions collected 145,000 signatures. Under San Antonio’s city charter, signatures of 10 percent of the number of registered voters in the last municipal election must be collected, with is about 70,000. The city clerk’s office certified that number Thursday.
During a presentation to Council, several citizens spoke out against the measure. David Fry, who works with Cox Manufacturing, a San Antonio based company.
He told the Council there are already protections in place for many workers, “but they key is market conditions ultimately should decide whether those things should be added. Many of those are voluntary.”
Earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to the city saying any such ordinance mandating sick leave at the city level would violate the Texas Minimum Wage Act.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has called for a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Council’s chambers at 114 West Commerce St.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules