SACRAMENTO -- A bill unveiled Tuesday would guarantee at least three paid sick days a year for California workers.
"It’s time to have this discussion, to seriously engage on the rights of everybody to take a day off when they’re sick or be able to take their child to the doctor," said the measure's author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) in an interview Tuesday.
Gonzalez said her proposal, which was introduced late last week and announced on Tuesday, aims to provide economic stability to workers who would otherwise risk losing their job due to illness. She said the measure is also driven by public health concerns, pointing out that food service employees, child care aides and other workers could spread infection or disease if they report to work while sick.
"When low-wage workers are forced to choose between having a day’s pay and taking a day off, you can imagine what usually wins out," Gonzalez said.
California businesses do not have to provide paid days off to sick employees. In recent years, paid sick leave has become a priority for labor groups, and the push has had growing success in cities. In 2006, San Francisco passed a law requiring all businesses to provide sick days to all employees who work in the city -- the first law of its kind in the nation. Since then, a number of cities throughout the country have followed suit, including Seattle and Portland, Ore., and Connecticut passed a statewide paid sick leave law.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio pushed through an expansion of his city's paid sick leave law, his first major legislative accomplishment since taking office.
But a statewide paid sick leave bill in California has so far proven elusive; former Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) put forth a paid sick leave bill several times, most recently in 2011, but the proposal faced resistance from business groups and failed to advance.
Gonzalez said the political landscape may be more forgiving for her bill, AB 1522.
"Our economic position is different in this state. We’ve rebounded, we’re coming back. I think people are much more aware of the inequalities between companies who are doing very well and yet providing little for their employees," she said.
"We’re at a time where we just passed an increase in the minimum wage," she added. "What else is necessary in order to make our working families complete?"