I think that we can all agree that no one likes getting sick. What’s worse than getting sick? Getting sick and not having access to paid sick leave. According to Federal sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you live in Dallas and aren’t privy to paid sick leave, you’re certainly not alone. Of the reported 737,000 individuals who work in Dallas, a whopping forty-one percent (300,000) of them are without any paid sick leave. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, sixty-nine percent of white workers have access to paid sick leave, while sixty-three percent of black workers and only forty-five percent of Latino workers are entitled to the same.
A Cohesive Coalition for Change
It is because of this perceived injustice, that a coalition of community groups in Dallas has come together to put a paid sick ordinance on the November ballot. In order for that to become a reality, they must obtain almost 65,000 signatures on a petition by the middle of July.
Who Has the “Luxury” of Being Sick?
White collar workers, eighty percent of whom can stay home sick without sacrificing income, are also generally more privileged than their service industry and maintenance counterparts with thirty-six and thirty-four percent respectively. Two out of every three workers putting in at least forty hours per week receive paid sick time, while only twenty-three percent of part-time employees working less than thirty-five hours per week are entitled to the same.
Proposed Ordinance: Fair Play or Socialist Agenda?
Earlier this year, the city of Austin passed a virtually identical ordinance. Dallas’ proposed ordinance would ensure that a worker would receive one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked, up to six to eight days per year depending on the size of the business. Like Dallas, San Antonio is also advocating for the ordinance on their ballot come November. Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, has been leading the fight against passing the Dallas ordinance due to his belief that it violates Texas’ existing prohibition against forcing cities to raise their minimum wage beyond the federal level. “The Austin City Council’s disdain and blatant disregard for the rule of law is an attempt to unlawfully and inappropriately usurp the authority of the state lawmakers chosen by Texas voters and must be stopped,” he said. On the flipside of the argument is Philip Kingston, a member of the Dallas City Council. As one of the ordinance’s biggest supporters, he believes that it’s simply put a commonsense measure and not as Paxton claims for the purpose of creating a socialist republic in Dallas. “Just because a waitress gets a sick day off, or gets to go take her kid to the doctor without fear of losing her job or her income, I don’t think it means that she’s going to seize the means of production,” said Kingston. Often times for parents dealing with sick children, losing wages to care for their kids can often mean the difference between paying their bills or not.
It should be really interesting to learn whether or not this ordinance will be on the ballot come November, let alone pass. If it does, this could mean the beginning of a new trend (at least for the state of Texas) of placing more value on human health and the work-life balance. It should be really interesting to see the impact that this effort has going forward.