Calif. lawmakers debate sick pay

June 25, 2008 7:02:01 PM PDT
Lawmakers in Sacramento are debating legislation that would grant sick pay to all California workers. Backers believe it will create a healthier economy, but opponents warn of the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

An estimated six million California workers do not get paid sick leave. Single mom Susana Padilla is one of them, taking a huge financial hit when pneumonia prevented her from going to work for a couple of weeks.

"My family had to let me borrow money because there was no other way," said Susana Padilla, a clerical worker from Oakland.

Bookstore owner Alzada Knickerbocker says she can't afford to give paid sick leave to every employee, especially during these tough economic times. She'd have to pay someone else overtime to fill in.

"That could mean lowering wages. It could mean not having as many staff. It could mean cutting hours. It could mean cutting other benefits," said Knickerbocker.

"A healthy workforce is an essential component to a healthy economy," said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D) from San Francisco.

The debate played out in the Senate Labor Committee. Assemblywoman Ma is pushing for mandatory paid sick leave for all workers in California, 5 to 9 days depending on the size of the company.

"We are not robots. We all get sick. If we get sick, we should have the opportunity to rest and recuperate," said Assmbilywoman Ma.

However, pro-business Republicans point to a new report out this week by the National Federation of Independent Business which found California would lose 370,000 jobs within five years, if mandatory sick leave becomes law. They also say workers, as it is, already abuse their sick days.

"Too many employees, in effect, would take that just as a vacation day," said State Senator Mark Wyland (R) from Escondido.

Under the proposal, sick leave could also be used to care for a family member or recover from a domestic violence or sexual assault.

The bill has enough momentum to get to the Governor's desk by the end of summer. He has concerns, though, it will slow job growth in this tough economic environment, and he has historically vetoed proposals that he thinks will kill jobs.


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