Essential Workers Cheer CA Senate Vote on SB 95 to Extend COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Benefits


Sacramento, CA (March 18, 2021) - California’s essential workers joined community and labor advocates today in cheering the California State Senate’s approval of SB 95, which would extend emergency paid sick days and paid family and medical leave protection for workers until September 30, 2021. Ever since all forms of employer-mandated, COVID-19-specific emergency paid sick leave expired on December 31, 2020, workers have since been left with either inadequate or no rights to sick leave. Countless Californians have been forced to work while sick, endangering co-workers and the public for months. 

“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.” 

This comes just days after the California State Assembly passed SB 95, citing the need for equity and fairness in helping our state’s essential workers who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While Californians continue to receive vaccinations, the risk of COVID-19 spread still looms large. When workers can’t afford to stay home if they are exposed to COVID-19 on the job, they put their co-workers, families, and all of us at risk. SB 95 will make sure workers, and especially women workers of color in essential roles, won’t have to continue showing up to their places of work after exhausting their own sick leave.

“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 the Legislature in moving to close this gap swiftly. This was a pivotal moment, and our champions showed up for workers.”

Costs to employers with less than 500 workers can be reimbursed until September 30, 2021 through federal tax credits of $12,000 per employee under the American Rescue Plan. 

“Essential workers are a lifeline to our communities as we continue to weather the economic and health crises created by the pandemic,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “By voting to extend emergency paid sick leave today, the State Senate joined the Assembly in showing these workers that the State of California has their back. We look forward to Gov. Newsom signing this important bill right away so that essential workers have the protections they deserve.” 

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.  

“Workers need to know that if they are sick, if they need to quarantine, if they need to care for sick family, or they need leave to get vaccinated, they will be paid and their job will be safe,” said Katherine Wutchiett, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work. “No one wants to go to work sick or send a sick child to school, but when their only other option is staying home and risking losing their job and necessary income, continuing to work can feel like the only choice.”

115 organizations have come out in support of action extending paid sick leave for workers. In a letter submitted to the California Legislature, they asked 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 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.”

“The essential workers who power California’s economy are risking their lives and the lives of their families whenever they go to work and deserve to be protected,” said Amber Baur, executive director, United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council. “Supplemental paid sick leave ensures workers can stay home if they, or a family member, is sick, needs to quarantine, or needs to take time off to be vaccinated. We applaud the California Senate for their action to help workers stay safe and healthy as we see light at the end of this tunnel.”