Austin City Council will give paid sick leave to its temporary workers

Two weeks after requiring most private employers to provide paid sick leave to their staff, the Austin City Council voted Thursday to do the same for its temporary workers.

Under the resolution passed Thursday, temporary city government employees who work 80 hours or more in a given year — roughly 2,900 met that threshold in 2017 — will begin accruing sick time.

The change goes into effect Oct. 1, the same day that the paid sick leave mandate for private employers begins. The 9-2 vote Thursday also mirrored the Feb. 16 passage of the paid sick leave mandate, with Council Members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair opposed.

As with last month’s paid sick leave ordinance, the quick pace of this resolution’s passage irked those against it. But its sponsor, Council Member Greg Casar, told the council that this vote should have happened a long time ago.

“I don’t think we are acting too quickly,” Casar said. “I think we are acting too late. I think all of our staff should have had sick time long before anyone on this dais was elected.”

The city of Austin already provides paid sick days to its full-time employees.

Starting this fall, city temporary workers and most private sector workers will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, for up to 64 hours, or eight eight-hour work days, of paid leave. Small businesses with 15 or fewer employees have a lower cap of up to 48 hours, or six eight-hour work days, of paid leave.

The council’s vote last month put in place the most progressive local labor policy in Texas and the American South. Its passage drew attention from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and has led many to speculate whether it could lead to similar policies being enacted locally in other red states.

Meanwhile, some Republican state lawmakers have already vowed to file bills next legislative session to overturn the ordinance, much as the Legislature passed a law last year trumping Austin’s ride-hailing ordinance.

The City Council budgeted $243,200 to begin providing paid sick leave to temporary employees for this fiscal year, but never spent that money. Thursday’s resolution will put that money toward public outreach and education efforts for businesses on the new paid sick leave ordinance.

City staff have estimated that implementing the paid sick leave mandate will cost roughly $350,000 to $400,000, including hiring staff to coordinate outreach and respond to questions.

Houston and Troxclair both said they could not support the resolution without more information. Among other things, there was no solid estimate on how much the paid sick leave for temporary employees would cost the city.

“There are too many things that are not finished yet,” Houston said. “There are too many unknowns, and I can’t endorse something that I have no idea about what the outcomes are going to be.”

Council Member Ann Kitchen said she recognized the decision would have a fiscal impact, but said that, as a policy, it boiled down to taking care of the city’s workers.

“If our workers cannot have a job where they can be home and paid if they are sick, then we are sacrificing affordability for them,” Kitchen said. “That is just not the right thing to do.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Review of peer cities finds Austin’s legal structure has different look
Review of peer cities finds Austin’s legal structure has different look

Most of Austin’s peer cities have city attorneys who report directly to the City Council as opposed to the city manager, which is how Austin has framed its legal structure. The finding, through a staff review completed last week, has added context to lingering debate about whether Austin should adopt the same setup. Earlier this year, a Charter...
PolitiFact: Cruz didn’t say what viral image alleges
PolitiFact: Cruz didn’t say what viral image alleges

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been openly opposed to same-sex marriage, but he didn’t blame gay people for mass shootings and public nudity during a 2014 speech. A 2015 viral image that falsely quotes Cruz is gaining traction again on social media as the Republican incumbent looks to keep his seat against Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke...
Austin gentrification study touted as tool to fix affordability crisis
Austin gentrification study touted as tool to fix affordability crisis

When Delwin Goss moved to the Montopolis neighborhood in Southeast Austin in 1992, it wasn’t safe to walk down the street at night because it had so much crime, he said. Over time, the fabric of the neighborhood has started to change: People jog at night at dusk, and many of the drug houses have closed. But home prices are rapidly increasing...
Echoes of Anita Hill in charge against Brett Kavanaugh
Echoes of Anita Hill in charge against Brett Kavanaugh

In a prologue to their 1994 book, “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,” journalists Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote of how “unresolved the conflict” remained between Thomas, the conservative justice, and Anita Hill, the law professor who testified that he had sexually harassed her a decade earlier...
Did backers of city audit proposition skirt ‘dark money’ restrictions?
Did backers of city audit proposition skirt ‘dark money’ restrictions?

The political action committee behind a ballot proposition that calls for an independent efficiency audit of Austin City Hall might have broken local campaign finance laws by shielding the identities of its donors, according to city officials. In the sole campaign finance report it filed with the city, Citizens for an Accountable Austin showed only...
More Stories