NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Paid Sick Leave Could Be On The Ballot In Dallas This Fall

Christopher Connelly
Texas Organizing Project Deputy Director Brianna Brown rallies supporters at the launch of the paid sick leave petition drive.

In Texas, 40 percent of workers don't have access to paid sick leave, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. That’s true for half of all Hispanic workers in the state.

This fall, Dallas voters may have the chance to weigh in on whether workers across the city get paid when they’re too sick to work.

A coalition of community groups, faith leaders and unions launched a campaign Friday to put a paid sick leave ordinance on the November ballot. To do that, they’ll need to gather nearly 65,000 signatures on a petition by mid-July.

Under the proposed policy, everyone who works in Dallas would earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to six or eight days a year, depending on the size of the business.

“Today we declare that every worker in Dallas, every cashier, every waiter, every janitor has the right to dignity at work,” said Brianna Brown from the Texas Organizing Project at a news conference. “Every worker has the right take care of themselves and their families.”

Shetamia Taylor, who has four boys, said that when she was working in a dollar store that didn’t offer paid sick leave, she struggled every time one of them got sick. She said the wages lost to care for sick kids, “can be the difference between putting a meal on the table or paying your light bill or having the exact amount of rent you need for that month.”

Earlier this year, Austin became the first city in Texas to mandate paid sick leave. In San Antonio, advocates have also launched a ballot initiative.

The policies may face a challenge in the Legislature next year, though. Some Republican lawmakers have already pledged tobring a bill to functionally overturn local sick leave requirements.  

That's why Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston says they're using the petition process instead of introducing an ordinance in City Council, which would be a lot easier. 

"What we need to do is demonstrate to the legislators in Austin that this is what the people want," Kingston said.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.