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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Greg Casar: Austin City Council member for District 4
This Labor Day, a group of community advocates and leaders gathered to celebrate the holiday with a push for more progressive employment legislation in Austin. The group, led by Council Member Greg Casar, issued a call for City Council to pass an ordinance that would give all Austinites access to paid sick days.
“Nobody should have to choose between their child’s health and their job, between their own health and their job. These are the real challenges that hundreds of thousands of Austinites face,” said Casar. “Almost 40 percent of Austin’s workforce is not allowed to earn paid sick days by their employer.”
Casar told those gathered at the Workers Defense Project headquarters that he was working on a resolution for Council’s Sept. 28 agenda, with aim toward having a law on the books by February. His resolution will launch a stakeholder process to figure out the details of any new law, which would apply to all businesses citywide. At the press conference, Casar said that they would be looking for businesses to provide five to 10 sick days for employees annually.
“I think what is critical is that we can find the opportunity to give sick days to every employee in the city and we will continue to work out the details between here and passage before the end of February,” said Casar.
At the moment, 150 countries worldwide have legislation similar to what is being proposed. In the United States, seven states and 33 cities have laws giving all workers access to paid sick days. According to data compiled by Work Strong Austin, 37 percent of Austinites do not currently have paid sick days. Work Strong Austin is a coalition whose membership includes the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Fight for 15, Unite Here Local 23, Young Active Labor Leaders and the Workers Defense Project.
“We know this benefit is not just for workers and for businesses, but for our economy as a whole,” said Casar. “In the state of Texas, we know the struggle for equality and justice is a really tough road. But the people here, in our city, and the people here behind me … have shown that we can win change even in the middle of difficult circumstances.”
“It is our time to not just be a place of resistance, but a city of progress,” he continued.
Though any law is still in the preliminary stages in Austin, several business interests showed up at Monday’s rally to signal their support, including Botticelli’s Restaurant, Austin Compost Pedallers and Wheatsville Co-op.
Wheatsville Chief Executive Grocer Dan Gillotte told the crowd that “offering sick days is the right thing to do.”
“It just makes sense for our business,” he said.
With the caveat that the Austin Chamber of Commerce knew “next to no details” on the plan, Senior Vice President Drew Scheberle told the Austin Monitor via email, “We will work hard on any issue to make Austin work better and more competitive. With 80 percent of Austinites saying Austin has an affordability problem, we know council will do the same.”
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