By Steve Smith
As we get closer to the end of the California legislative session, you see a lot more corporate types in fancy suits roaming in and around the Capitol. The goal? Stamp out worker-friendly bills. Near the top of their hit list this year is AB 1522, an effort authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to allow all California workers to earn a few desperately needed paid sick days on the job.
In most other countries, this isn’t a controversial notion. 136 countries around the world have national laws that all workers to earn paid sick days. Most modern economies have made paid sick leave a basic workplace right because when workers are forced to go to a workplace when they’re sick, everyone from consumers to workers to businesses is put at risk.
Here in the United States, polling shows 86 percent of Americans favor paid sick leave policy. Yet, only one state (Connecticut) has a paid sick leave law. Why so much resistance to something that seems common-sense and fundamental? Let’s go back to those business lobbyists roaming the Capitol. The Chamber of Commerce has labeled paid sick days a so-called “job killer.” Not because it actually kills jobs (research shows the laws in Connecticut and San Francisco didn’t have negative impact on jobs). No, for business lobbyists, “job killer” is merely code for any law that supports working people.
Lobbyists like John Kabatek of the National Federation of Independent Business use arguments like the law “will create uncertainty.” Uncertainty? When I think of uncertainty, I think about the single mom who has to choose between going to work sick and possibly infecting her co-workers and customers OR staying home with a sick child and missing the rent payment. In today’s economy, that’s the uncertainty that 5.5 million workers face, many of whom are in low-wage jobs at multi-billion dollar corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s.
The Senate Appropriations committee, led by Senate President Pro tem-elect Kevin de Leon, has an opportunity to do the right thing this week and send the bill to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. It’s time to stand up to the corporate lobbyists swarming the Capitol. Millions of Californians who are without even a single paid sick day on the job are depending on it. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition in support of AB 1522.