San Francisco Values Come to Connecticut

by Paul Hogarth on June 6, 2011

In November 2006, while Democrats were winning back Congress and Nancy Pelosi was becoming House Speaker, San Francisco voters made history by passing the first law in the nation that guarantees paid sick leave for workers. Milwaukee and Washington D.C. followed our lead by passing similar ordinances, and this weekend the Connecticut state legislature passed paid sick days. While the Connecticut bill is more moderate than ours (it only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees), Democratic Governor Daniel Malloy has vowed to sign it into law – making Connecticut the first state in the country to pass paid sick days. In California, State Assemblymember Fiona Ma has twice attempted to get the state legislature to pass paid sick leave. Ma’s first effort in 2008 passed the State Assembly, but it died in a Senate Committee – even after Barack Obama endorsed the effort in his campaign. Her second attempt, in 2009, died in the Assembly Appropriations committee. With a new Democratic Governor, it’s time for California to pass this legislation and reverse the right-wing political tide in the country.

It’s been nearly five years since San Francisco passed Prop F – and studies show the law to be a huge success. It has not been a “job-killer” that business interests said it would be, and it has had a negligible effect on employers. One of the reasons is that there has been very little “abuse” from employees – as workers tend to only use it when they are sick. Still, over half the San Francisco workers in one survey have taken advantage of the new law.

After San Francisco passed paid sick leave in 2006, Senator Edward Kennedy hailed it as a “watershed moment for working families” and worked on passing it at the national level. At the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Barack Obama singled out paid sick days in his speech – twice. At the state level, Fiona Ma introduced legislation in Sacramento – which passed the State Assembly in May 2008 by a 45-33 vote. Momentum was on our side …

But now Ted Kennedy is dead, the Republicans have a majority in the House and Ma’s legislation has twice died in Committee. Today, about 40 million American workers have no paid sick leave. With the victory in Connecticut, it’s time to get momentum back. California has a Democratic Governor; there’s no reason why we can’t pass it here.

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