SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – City Council has approved a revised paid sick leave ordinance in hopes that it can withstand legal challenges.
It is now called the Safe and Sick Time ordinance, partly because it allows workers to use paid sick leave if they are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and need to relocate.
The amended ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect in December, will require all companies who conduct business in San Antonio, no matter the size, to provide 56 hours of earned paid sick time to employees. Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger explained that the revised ordinance takes a one-size-fits-all approach. The ordinance applies to all businesses that have employees who work within the city limits of San Antonio, even if the company itself is located outside the city.
“We’ve arrived at recommendations that I think apply an ordinance that protects the health and safety of our community,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “Shouldn’t that be what the city council does?”
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran is all for paid sick leave and she supported the previous ordinance, which had different requirements based on the size of the business. Thursday, she voted against the new Safe and Sick Time ordinance , saying the one-size-fits-all approach is unfair to small business owners. Viagran said she doesn’t want “to have small businesses being demonized in some aspects through this when they are trying to help with job creation. We know that this will impact hair salons, we know that this will impact food trucks.”
Representatives from several business groups, including Cristina Aldrete, President and CEO of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce urged city council to vote “no,” or at the very least, delay the vote pending the outcome of court battles surrounding similar ordinances in other Texas cities.
“We have collectively been opposed to what this ordinance represents–an overreach by municipal government,” said Aldrete.
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval pointed out that there’s already a sick leave ordinance in the books. A “no” vote wouldn’t have scrapped the policy. It would have left the previous ordinance unchanged.
Councilman Clayton Perry thanked Sandoval for clarifying that, but he proceeded to vote against the new Safe and Sick Time ordinance.
“Regardless of what this council does today, we’re going to be hauled back into court again, So here we go again, spending more of your tax dollars defending another legal challenge of what this city is trying to do,” said Perry.
Manny Pelaez, a labor attorney, also voted against the revisions.
The Texas Organizing Project and MOVE Texas are celebrating.
“This has been a long journey and we’re grateful that today working families prevailed once again,” said Michelle Tremillo, Executive Director of the Texas Organizing Project. “We thank everyone who signed the petition, testified at City Hall, rallied in support of paid sick leave and lobbied to protect our ordinance at the state legislature. This is your victory!
H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas, called it a “moral fight.”
“More than 140,000 San Antonians petitioned the city for a paid sick leave ordinance that was successfully passed through the city council, today’s victory is a testament to those working people who spoke out for their rights.”