Small Steps Like Paid Sick Days Make a Big Difference for Working Families - Voice of San Diego

Opinion UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Small Steps Like Paid Sick Days Make a Big Difference for Working Families

The common-sense policies within Proposition I are long overdue, and build on work already being done at the state level.

Sunday, while some of us celebrated Mother’s Day brunch, many San Diego moms were working hard for a paycheck that may not be enough to put food on the table. They’re among hundreds of thousands of San Diegans struggling to make ends meet, with poverty wages and the high cost of living forcing families to make impossible choices: Should we pay the rent or the electric bill? Take our sick child to the doctor or risk losing a much-needed job?

In 2016, we need to take concrete steps to improve the lives of families struggling to get by. When we do, we will improve our workplaces, our communities, our schools and countless other aspects of San Diego life. That’s why I’m proud to support Proposition I in this election – a local ballot measure that will provide an immediate raise for more than 170,000 San Diegans and guarantee five earned sick days per year. These are commonsense policies that are long overdue, building on work that’s begun at the state level. As the former head of the Labor Council, I know these are severely needed policies for women like Ada.

Ada is a mother. As a janitor, she works in a building in La Jolla. The high cost of living in San Diego paired with her low wages left her with no choice but to move. She and her son moved to Tijuana, and they are a prime example of the fact that U.S. policies are making the American dream out of reach for today’s workforce.

It’s not surprising Ada’s job didn’t cover the basics here in San Diego. Renting an average two-bedroom apartment here requires more than 90 percent of a full-time minimum-wage paycheck. What’s left over isn’t nearly enough for families to meet essential needs like food, transportation costs and health care.

This week, as we celebrate mothers both in the U.S. and from Mexico (May 10 was Mexico’s Mother’s Day), I’m thinking especially about the women who will be impacted by Prop. I. Women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the U.S. and are often the primary caregivers for their children. So, when a local child wakes up with strep throat or the flu, San Diego moms are often the first to visit the pediatrician or pharmacy to ensure their kids get well. No parent should feel the additional burden of worrying about their livelihood in this situation – wondering if calling in sick will mean a paycheck that doesn’t stretch the full month or even worse, a lost job.

As a mom myself, I know the balancing act that is being a caregiver and a good employee. I wrote AB 1522, making California the first state in the nation last year to guarantee paid sick days for every single private-sector worker, because I know firsthand how important it is to be there when your child is sick and needs you.

And I know I’m not alone – in a recent study, more than 90 percent of single women said paid sick leave was the most important policy that their employer could adopt to improve their lives. Smart policies like those that will go into effect with Prop. I will help more families in our community succeed.

By next Mother’s Day, I hope more San Diego moms can celebrate with their families and go to sleep knowing that their hard work is paying off – that the money they earn will be enough to provide for their families and that an unexpected illness won’t cost them their job. These small steps from passing Prop. I will make a world of difference to moms like Ada and ensure a bright future for the city we call home.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez serves as chair of the Assembly appropriations committee and the Assembly select committee on women in the workplace. She represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

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