Austin City Council to vote on paid sick leave measure

City council will take up an item Thursday that will be the first step in getting workers earned sick leave.

Joe Hernandez works in the construction industry. “I've been in the construction business four years. I'm a fourth year apprentice in the electrical industry,” said Hernandez.

He says if he gets sick, he toughs it out. “Me being an apprentice and not earning the wages of a union electrician, missing even one hour of work is a big deal,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez sometimes he has to care for his 90-year-old great grandmother. When he's had to take off, he just takes the loss of wages for that day.

“She's had to go to the doctor, nobody else can take her,” said Hernandez.

He is one of the many who showed up at Austin City Hall Thursday to voice support for a resolution that would examine paid sick leave in Austin.

Council members Delia Garza, Greg Casar, and Ann Kitchen all showed their support.

“It's a public health issue and it's a basic human right issue,” said Kitchen.

“All workers regardless of where they work or how much they make should be able to care for themselves or a loved one when they're sick. Unfortunately, 37 percent of Austin workers don't have this minimum job standard,” said Laura Rosen, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Some have expressed concern for effects on small businesses, such as costs. “This resolution is designed to have a conversation about how would you do this, how can you do it in a way that doesn't harm small businesses?” said Kitchen.

The resolution would initiate a process to gather information from business owners, workers, and organizations to see what can be done for employees to earn paid sick time.

For Joe Hernandez, it's step that could change his life.

“If I get sick, I'm still at work. I don't miss work unless I'm near death,” said Hernandez.