Council holds special meeting on Austin ‘paid sick leave' policy

Council Member Greg Casar is sponsor of a proposed City of Austin ordinance establishing earned sick time standards for private employers in Austin.

“We’ve applied an even standard that you should be able to earn at least 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work regardless of whether you’re working for an out-of-town company or an in-town company.  Regardless of whether it’s a really big company or a moderate sized company,” Casar told Fox 7 Tuesday.

James Aldrete with Message Audience and Presentation, a small business in south Austin is on a list of supporters of the ordinance. He uses flu season as an example.

“You really don’t need people coming in that’s not going to be productive, that’s not taking care of themselves and then could potentially be putting other people at risk too,” Aldrete said.

Aldrete says it’s important to have each others backs.

“We already do it. Just because we cover them and they’ll cover us and in the end you want to keep people that are trained, you want to keep people that know what they’re doing and know how to work together,” Aldrete said.

But not everyone is a fan of the idea. 

Regina Estrada’s family has owned Joe’s Bakery in east Austin for more than 50 years.

“The people that are going to be most affected by this are minority-owned businesses. We are the ones that are really going to feel the effects of the ordinance,” Estrada said.

Estrada says they haven’t been given enough time to really figure out what the mandate would do to their bottom line.

“When an ordinance that is in black in white laya out a set standard that you are required to adhere to...sometimes makes it more difficult to organically do what you feel is right within your means,” Estrada said.

“Over 40 cities and states have passed paid sick day laws and they continue to add jobs. Studies shows that the economies continue to grow,” Casar said.

During a special-called meeting on paid sick leave Tuesday afternoon amendments were discussed. Council Member Pool expressed her support and desire for the whole state to take up the cause. Others like Council Member Jimmy Flannigan have concerns.

“While the intent of this ordinance is something that I believe in there are some pretty broad enforcement mechanisms and broad requirements that don’t account for the complexity of business models,” Flannigan said.

Estrada says at Joe’s, if an employee is sick they’ll work with them to make sure their hours get made up so they can provide for their families.  

“Obviously what we have now works because we still wouldn’t be in business with loyal employees. We wouldn’t be here 56 years later if we weren’t taking care of our employees,” Estrada said.

Council Member Casar says if passed next week businesses will have until October to get in compliance. Regardless of what happens, the state could end up targeting this policy during the next legislative session which could reverse the whole thing.