Governor of YMCA Youth & Government Program Set to Sign California Paid Sick Leave Bill

by Randy Shaw on February 20, 2007

In what should be a positive signal to Governor Schwarzenegger, high-school students from throughout California approved a bill last weekend at the annual Youth & Government convention to mandate paid sick leave for California workers. Office of Youth Governor Ian Bruce, who is pictured shaking hands with Schwarzenegger on the conference program, had his staff lobby for passage of the legislation and is expected to sign it this week. Sponsored by Berkeley Senator Ariel Feingold-Shaw on behalf of the Berkeley YMCA delegation, the bill is modeled on San Francisco’s Prop F, which was approved by 61% of the voters in the November 2006 election. Schwarzenegger spoke at the event, and worker advocates hope it helps persuade him to sign a similar bill if it comes before him.

California’s Youth & Government program creates a remarkably accurate model of the state’s real Legislature. Students must draft legislation, introduce it, win approval in the applicable House and Senate Committees, and then win passage in floor votes in each body. They then must lobby the Governor to sign the measure.

The Youth & Government annual convention took place at the state capital from February 15-19, with student-legislators working late into the night to ensure passage of their bills. Governor Schwarzenegger and Treasurer Bill Lockyer addressed the crowd of nearly 2000 students from across California.

Proving that they can be as industrious as their adult models, the students had to vote on 277 separate bills. The debate and votes occurred in the actual Legislative chambers, lending an even greater sense of realism to the proceedings.

One of the bills was modeled on San Francisco’s Prop F, the historic paid sick leave measure initiated by the Young Workers United.

Sponsored by Senator Ariel Feingold-Shaw on behalf of the Berkeley YMCA (she is the daughter of the author), the statewide paid sick-leave measure drew strong support in both the Assembly and Senate. Some representatives argued that paid sick-leave would increase unemployment and hurt small business, but Feingold-Shaw argued that the measure would actually boost the economy.

Relying on studies included on the Prop F website, Feingold-Shaw argued that paid sick leave would increase business revenue by $46 million annually. She also argued that the 61% passage rate in San Francisco showed that the measure was sound.

Youth Governor Ian Bruce was clearly supportive of the measure, asking a member of his Cabinet to lobby members for passage. He is expected to sign it in the next few days.

Whether Governor Schwarzenegger is influenced by the broad support for paid sick leave among the state’s youth remains to be seen. But these young people are future voters and activists, so their recognition that workers deserve paid-sick leave bodes well for the future.

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