Sacramento, CA (March 15, 2021) - California’s essential workers and community and labor advocates today celebrated the California State Assembly’s approval of SB 95, one of two bills that would extend emergency paid sick days and paid family and medical leave protection for workers until September 30, 2021, in the California 2021-2022 early action budget. 

“No one wants to get their co-workers sick, but when you work in a job that doesn’t pay the bills, you can’t afford to miss a paycheck no matter how sick you feel,” said Maria Ruiz, a San Jose McDonald’s worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union. “No one should be surprised that Black and Brown communities are hit hardest by COVID-19 if California doesn’t take action to ensure Black and Brown workers can stay home to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.” 

Even as public health officials caution California is not out of the woods and new, contagious mutations of COVID-19 present new threats, many workers have exhausted their own sick leave and have been working without a critical safety net: the federal and emergency paid sick leave mandates on employers that expired on December 31, 2020. The result is that workers – particularly workers of color in essential roles – are facing additional months of danger and can’t afford to stay home when they are exposed on the job, putting their co-workers, families and all of us at risk.

“No one should be forced to make a choice between feeding themselves and their family and staying away from work when they are sick, have been exposed, or are caring for family,” said David Huerta, President of SEIU United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) and member of SEIU California’s Executive Board. “We applaud the leadership of Assembly members Carrillo, Gonzalez, and others, who really went to the mat for working people. This was a pivotal moment, and our champions showed up for workers.”

Published research from scientists at Cornell University and in Switzerland found paid sick leave resulted in a measurable and significant decrease in COVID-19 spread. Experts from the University of California at Berkeley published an opinion piece last month in CalMatters stressing the importance of extending California’s COVID-19 supplemental sick leave policy to allow sick workers to stay home.  

In January, 115 organizations submitted a letter to the California Legislature asking leaders to take immediate action to expand emergency paid sick days and to protect California’s families, and “prevent needless suffering and death.” The California Latino Caucus has also called on our elected leaders to expand paid sick leave benefits “to ensure that California workers – especially Latinos who make up a disproportionate share of our state’s frontline workforce — have access to paid sick leave when they need to get vaccinated, quarantine and/or recover from a COVID-19 infection.”