Mothers have long faced economic inequality in the United States. Early June marked Moms’ Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how long it took moms to earn what dads earned in 2019. U.S. Census data from 2019 indicated that women working full time in the U.S. earned $0.82 for every dollar that men made in their jobs. However, mothers make just $0.70 for every dollar white, non-Hispanic fathers make. The pandemic has only intensified the problem, as mothers are being forced to choose between their jobs and their caregiving responsibilities.
Today, the Austin City Council voted 9-2 to pass a paid sick time ordinance, making Austin the first city in Texas, and the first jurisdiction in the South, to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick time to use when they or a family member are ill or in need of care. The ordinance, sponsored by Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, was spearheaded by members of the Work Strong Austin coalition including the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Workers Defense Project. A Better Balance lent substantial technical assistance to the campaign from the early stages of drafting to the final days leading up to passage. We congratulate our partners and the people of Austin on this groundbreaking victory that will improve the health and lives of workers throughout the city.
As the 42nd paid sick time law in the nation, Austin’s ordinance offers strong protections to workers. Under the law, all workers will be able to earn paid sick time, regardless of their employer’s size. Beginning on October 1, 2018, individuals who work for employers with more than 15 employees can earn up to 64 hours of paid sick time per year, while individuals who work for employers with 6 to 15 employees can earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year. Beginning on October 1, 2020, individuals who work for employers with 5 or fewer employees can also earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
Along with seven other jurisdictions, Austin defines “family member” broadly in its paid sick time law to include chosen family members. This means that workers will have the right to use their earned sick time to care for loved ones even if they do not have a biological or legal relationship to them. By recognizing the critical role that chosen family plays in caregiving and support, Austin has taken an essential step forward to ensure that all Austin families thrive.
Austin also joins a growing number of jurisdictions that allow workers to use their earned sick time for “safe time” purposes. Under Austin’s law, workers can use earned sick time to address needs related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking committed against the worker or the worker’s family member.
A Better Balance will continue working closely with advocates around the nation to advance additional paid sick time bills and to protect those already in existence from attack. Again, we congratulate our partners in Austin on this tremendous victory and look forward to building on this momentum elsewhere in the nation.