Essential Workers Urge CA Legislature to Provide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

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Jenna Thompson, jenna@paschalroth.com(949) 246-1620
January 13, 2022
Posted in Press

Recording of the press conference is available here.
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Sacramento, CA – On Thursday, a coalition of essential workers, worker advocates and labor unions came together to urge the California Legislature to provide two weeks of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick days to workers. COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave previously expired in September 2021 and workers have only had access to the state mandated three paid sick days since then — not enough time to recover or quarantine if they become infected with COVID-19. 

“The absence of paid sick leave now will result in situations where people will have to go to work or have been going to work despite health risks,” said Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). “That is not who we are as a state. There is an opportunity for us given this incredible surplus to not only extend COVID sick leave but to ensure that we have a safe pandemic economic recovery and that we are putting our communities first throughout this process.”

Without COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, workers currently have no safety net if they are exposed or sick with COVID-19 just as the virus is breaking new records. Essential frontline workers are placed in situations where they have to choose between either going to work while sick, or staying home and risking their income and their job. 

“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues and our governor to implement paid sick leave policies to protect workers impacted by COVID-19. Especially in light of the surge and the cases we’ve seen from this current variant,” said Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose). “We’ve already implemented the policy once; it needs to be implemented again immediately. This is simply a policy that will prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe on the job.”

“Renewing COVID Supplemental Paid Sick Leave will help reduce the burden on our crowded hospitals and our stressed healthcare workers by allowing people who are sick to take care of themselves and protect others from infection,” said Georgette Bradford, SEIU-UHW member and Kaiser Ultrasound Technologist. “Paid sick leave is also an important tool to help encourage more people to get vaccinated and get their boosters.”

Two weeks of COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave ensures workers can take the time off they need to recover, take care of a sick family member, provide childcare if schools close and get vaccinated. 

“Two-thirds of low-wage workers have no paid sick leave,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “That means they’re forced to make an impossible choice: Go to work sick or go without wages that they need to keep or roof over their heads. That’s a choice we shouldn’t ever force workers to make. We can’t slow the spread if we’re forcing workers to go to work sick. Our economy can’t recover if essential workers are treated as expendable. The time to act is now.”

Without adequate paid sick leave, California workers are unable to follow public health advice and quarantine when sick or exposed, keep sick or exposed children home from school, care for sick family, get vaccinated, or recover from vaccine side effects without risking their job or pay.

“Paid sick leave protects patients and nurses by fighting the spread of COVID. Now, you’re seeing more health care workers infected with COVID,” said Jeffrey Nuguid, RN, United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, Fountain Valley, CA. 

“We need this important protection to help us hold our bosses accountable for keeping us, our families, and our customers safe,” said Ingrid Vilorio, a worker at Jack in the Box and member of Fight for $15. “Fast food corporations give nothing to their workers, we are just a number to them. We are the so-called front-line workers, but we don’t always receive the benefits involved with the risks involved with our work. We feed our community and go out to work during the pandemic. We hope our elected officials will step forward for us and support our calls for extended sick leave coverage.”

Paid Sick Leave saves lives. One study found that states whose workers newly gained access to paid sick leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) saw four hundred fewer confirmed cases per day, translating into approximately one case prevented for every 1,300 workers per day. 

“Essential frontline workers like UFCW’s members have been risking their lives and the lives of their families since day one of the pandemic,” said John Grant, president, UFCW Local 770. “Now with COVID-19 breaking new records daily because of the omicron variant, it is critical that workers have the ability to stay home when they are sick or they need to take care of a loved one who is sick without the fear of losing two weeks of pay, or worse, their job. We need our legislative leaders to stand with the essential workers who power California’s economy and provide supplemental paid sick leave now.”   

Paid sick leave is necessary to keep our kids safe and to prevent parents from being driven from the workforce. When young children are sent home from school because of illness or exposure, someone has to be there to care for them. In the very first week that LAUSD schools were open last fall, 6,500 students were sent home due to COVID-19 cases or exposures. 

“Omicron is wreaking havoc on our schools,” said E. Toby Boyd, CTA President & kindergarten educator. “The highly transmissible variant is threatening the health and safety of educators, students and families in real time.  This outbreak has exacerbated the critical staffing shortages throughout the state since so many of us have been infected. We join our labor partners in calling on the governor and legislators to act now to restore the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for all workers in California. This must be a priority in order to allow school employees to quarantine, recover and return to their students and classrooms.”

More than 6.3 million Californians have already contracted COVID-19 and more than 76,000 Californians have died since 2020. 

“I’ve had COVID-19 three times but only got paid once,” said Cris Delgadillo, a worker at Subaru in Ontario. “Not having COVID pay has caused people to work sick and not get tested. This is causing COVID to spread in the workplace. That is how I got covid this last time. Someone in my office was sick and continued to work. We need paid COVID time off immediately. This pandemic is not over and the work industry continues to get sick and spread COVID. We should be able to take time off to recover from COVID or go get vaccinated without fear of losing our jobs or having to use up our vacation time.”