OAKLAND — Employers in Oakland would be required to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave to workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic under a proposal the City Council will vote on Tuesday.
“Working families continue to be in the front lines every single day,” said council member Sheng Thao, sponsor of the proposed ordinance, during a Monday press conference. “Those in the front lines are disproportionately black, brown and immigrant families. I know first-hand the feeling of caring for a loved one or putting food on the table. This should not be the case, especially under the pandemic.”
The legislation would require employers to provide workers affected by coronavirus with 80 hours or 10 days of paid sick leave.
Kate O’Hara, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, said the emergency paid sick leave ordinance would go beyond the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act by requiring all employers to provide paid sick leave — including those with more than 500 employees, who were left out of the federal legislation. It also applies to gig workers and other workers not classified as full-time employees, like Uber and Lyft drivers.
If passed, it would make Oakland the fourth city in the state — after Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco — to pass a measure to address the devastating impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, according to the alliance.
In a Zoom press conference, four workers and a small business owner — some of whom tearfully spoke, their voices cracking with emotion — described their lives and the experiences since the pandemic hit. Council member Thao also spoke.
Cherri Murphy, a Lyft driver and member of Gig Workers Rising and Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy who lives in the Fruitvale neighborhood, said that Lyft has been her main source of income for the past three years. She said she has given a total of about 12,000 rides.
“In March, not only was I being economically impacted by the virus, making approximately $10 an hour with rental and gas fees, I was also risking my life,” she said. “I should not have to face an infectious disease that has the potential to kill me in an effort to secure my home and my bills.”
Murphy noted that rideshare drivers aren’t being supported by employers Lyft and Uber “and by the cities they love and live in.”
Maria Trejo, a passenger services worker at the Oakland International Airport who was laid off, said she was the primary breadwinner, supporting her son, who is also out of work.
“I am doing the best that I can, and it’s hard,” Trejo said, pausing, her voice cracking. “We keep going forward, trying any way and praying.”
Edith Diaz, a hotel worker who was laid off from her job, tearfully recounted how she provided 80 percent of her family’s income to support her husband and three children. She said, through an interpreter, that she was “very worried” because the family has no savings and “I’m not sure how we can continue to pay our bills.”
“We’re all human beings, we’re trying to get through this crisis together,” Diaz said. “We’re asking from the City Council, we’re asking from our officials to give us a little bit of faith, a little bit of hope to get through this together.”
The legislation would apply to employees who are isolated or quarantined because of a public health order, told to self-quarantine, have symptoms of coronavirus or because of underlying health conditions. It would also cover those caring for others who are quarantined, or caring for children if their school or daycare has been closed.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides two weeks and up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds the worker’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a need to care for someone subject to quarantine or to care for a child whose school or daycare has been shuttered. Thao said her legislation would bridge the gap and cover up to 100 percent of the paid sick leave.
Thao’s legislation is co-sponsored by council members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb and Loren Taylor.
In addition, on Tuesday, the City Council also will be voting on an ordinance to establish the Department of Workplace & Employment Standards, which would be responsible for enforcement of workforce provisions such as the sick leave proposal.
Thao said “right to return” legislation would be discussed in a couple of weeks. That legislation ensures that workers who are laid off because of coronavirus have the right to their jobs when employers reopen and resume hiring.
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