COVID sick leave restored:
A victory for working people!
By Deliana Speights, Secretary-Treasurer
Working people in California have secured a big victory, thanks to the UFCW, its allies in the State Legislature, the Governor’s Office and the Labor Movement.
In early February, Gov. Gavin Newsom reached an agreement with leaders of the California State Senate and Assembly on the framework for a law restoring supplemental paid sick leave benefits for workers who need to stay home due to COVID-19 related issues. The California Legislature then passed Senate Bill 114 to provide workers an additional two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave benefits. The governor signed the bill on Feb. 9.
Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, workers in California benefited from a temporary measure, Senate Bill 95, that gave them extra paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons.
SB 95 expired Sept. 30, 2021 after covering a nine-month period. After its expiration, the UFCW led a coalition of labor unions and legislators aiming to bring back this critical benefit in 2022.
Specifically, Senate Bill 114 restores a requirement for employers with more than 25 workers to provide a maximum of 80 hours of leave for COVID-19 related reasons. These include quarantining or recovering following COVID-19 exposure for the worker or a family member, receiving and recovering from symptoms related to the COVID-19 vaccine for the worker or a family member (maximum 24 hours), and staying home with a child whose school or child care is closed due to COVID-19.
Under the new bill, supplemental paid sick leave is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022. As a result, UFCW members who had to use their own sick pay because of COVID-19 will have their sick-pay banks restored.
Without this added sick leave, too many workers who are infected or exposed to COVID-19 would be forced to choose between staying home (as they should) or going to work in order to pay the bills.
When they choose the latter, they risk exposing their fellow workers as well as the public.
“We used to be called heroes and saints,” said Rheannon Ramos, a Local 1428 member from Stater Bros., shortly before
SB 114 was enacted. “There were cartoons of us with capes on our backs. Now we’re forced to choose between our bills being paid and the state of public health.
“As long as California is following the CDC guidelines on quarantine, workers should be paid for the days we’re forced to stay out of our work in order to keep our co-workers, our customers and our public safe.”
Thanks to the UFCW and its allies, working people like Rheannon Ramos are being heard at the highest levels of state government.
Restoring extra sick leave for COVID-19 is a victory for California’s working people who are still coping with the economic effects of a devastating illness.
Deliana can be reached at: 909-626-3333 ext. 226 firstname.lastname@example.org
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