As liberal policy priorities and business interests clashed, the California Assembly on Thursday passed legislation requiring employers to offer workers paid sick leave.
Legislators sent the bill to the Senate on a 48-20 vote. Demonstrating the issue's divisiveness, no Republicans voted for it.
Securing paid sick days for shift workers has been a priority for liberal politicians and labor unions across the country. Assembly Bill 1522 is sponsored by two prominent labor groups, the Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, called her legislation a matter of basic fairness that would also keep ailing employees out of workplaces, like restaurants, where they could sicken others. The bill would let workers accrue hours towards days off, allowing employers to cap the total at three per year, and would not affect employers who already offer sick days.
"Most of these workers are low wage and hourly, disproportionately women and Latinos, and they have to choose in their jobs whether to go to work sick and be able to make ends meet or lose a day's pay," Gonzalez said, adding that it would be a boon to working parents who need to take time off to care for sick children.
For business groups and allied lawmakers, the bill would hamstring businesses by chipping away at their bottom line. The legislation holds a spot on the California Chamber of Commerce's annual "job killers" list.
"This bill adds another burden on employers that will make it difficult for them to compete. We just keep piling on," said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine.
PHOTO: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, receives applause from lawmakers as she walks down the center isle of the Assembly to take the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli.