The Los Angeles City Council is to be congratulated on passing an ordinance raising the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2020. That historic action is an important step in achieving economic justice for so many workers who are forced to hold down two jobs or more and even then find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. A living wage is a basic economic right, and it is inextricably linked to the full exercise of civil rights and liberties. No one working a full-time job should be paid a wage that leaves them living in poverty.
And no one working a full-time job should have to choose between paying their rent and remaining at home when they are ill. That is why the city council should revisit the possibility of adopting a measure providing paid sick days to workers. California passed a law last year giving three paid sick days to workers across the state. While this law represents progress, three paid sick days are simply not enough. San Francisco and Oakland have passed ordinances giving workers five to nine sick days, depending on the size of the business. L.A. should follow suit.
"While this law represents progress, three paid sick days are simply not enough."
Many of L.A.'s low-income workers are parents or family caregivers. Paid sick days uphold reproductive justice and gender equity for these workers. Reproductive justice means being able to work and take care of yourself and your family. It means not having to choose between caring for a sick child and keeping the job that is crucial to your family’s wellbeing.
But for too many of these workers who are also parents, if they need to take care of themselves or their families, their hours are docked, they’re written up, they have less money to put food on the table, and they are made to fear losing their jobs. The city council can right this wrong. The living wage ordinance is an important step. It needs to be accompanied by an equally important step to give paid sick days to L.A. workers.
Ruth Dawson is staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project. Follow ACLU_SoCal.