December 15, 2020
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San Jose leaders feared the federal government would not help residents and unanimously voted to extend local paid sick leave protection through an emergency measure.
Councilors Magdalena Carrasco, Sylvia Arenas and Maya Esparza spearheaded the move because they feared the federal government would not extend its First Coronavirus Response Law (FFCRA), which has granted workers nationwide paid sick leave since March. These protective measures expire on December 31st.
The San Jose Paid Sick Leave Ordinance was enacted April 7th to complement federal measure and has allowed key workers who have fallen ill to take paid time off to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The city’s new emergency ordinance will come into force on January 1 either as a separate ordinance or as a supplement to the FFCRA if the federal government extends it. If the FFCRA is not renewed, San Jose ordinance will expire on June 30, 2021.
“Unfortunately, with Republicans blocking further federal action, we do not know whether Congress will take action before their vacation break to expand that protection,” Carrasco, Arenas and Esparza wrote in a memo. “In the event the federal government is able to extend these much-needed measures, we believe the clear course of action is to expand our current additional protection to accommodate the new federal expansion.”
Under the FFCRA, full-time workers could receive 80 hours of paid sick leave per year, and part-time workers could be given leave for the hours they work in a two-week period. Vacation can be used regardless of how long an employee has worked for an employer. The San Jose ordinance also provides 80 hours of paid sick leave.
The federal law exempts companies with more than 500 employees or companies with fewer than 50 employees from additional paid time off. The San Jose Ordinance applies to these essential employees – with no exceptions. However, if employees use sick time to care for someone else, they receive two-thirds of their regular pay, up to $ 2,000.
Under California law, full-time employees can earn at least 24 hours – three days – of paid sick leave per year or at least one hour of paid vacation for every 30 hours they work. Employees can take paid sick leave once they have been employed for 90 days.
Carrasco, Arenas and Esparza said that just wasn’t enough to help people get out of the pandemic.
“People die – our people die – and I don’t want other people to die,” said Esparza. “As a city, we were always writing to people to ‘please stay home’ and ‘please don’t collect’. That should include, ‘Please don’t work if you are sick.’
A coalition of nonprofit leaders wrote a letter to the council asking city guides to extend paid sick leave for workers.
“When workers do not have enough paid sick leave, the fear of loss of income leads many to call in even if they are sick. This means that sick people suffer unnecessarily. This also increases the spread of infectious diseases to employees and customers,” wrote the coalition, which includes the California Work and Family Coalition, the Regional Initiative on Health Inequalities in the Bay Area, the South Bay Labor Council, and the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.
The nonprofit leaders said COVID-19 disproportionately affects low-income paint workers. Low-income Latino communities in zip codes 95122, 95116, 95111, and 95127 get sick and die at the highest rates from COVID-19. These people also make up the highest percentage of the city’s vital workforce, according to Carrasco, Arenas and Esparza.
In the past 7 days, more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed, three people have died and 103 have been hospitalized, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health. 529 people have died of COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began.
“Nobody should have to decide whether to lose their paycheck or work sick during the pandemic,” said Dianna Zamora-Marroquin of the South Bay Labor Council. “This could become a reality if workers don’t have access to paid sick leave.” We cannot allow federal dysfunction to affect our local efforts. “
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.