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Group Says It Has Enough Signatures To Put Paid Sick Leave In Dallas On Ballot This Fall

Christopher Connelly
Texas Organizing Project Deputy Director Brianna Brown rallies supporters at the launch of the paid sick leave petition drive in April 2018.

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 Texas-based community groups says it's turning in more than 110,000 signatures to the city clerk's office in a petition to put a paid sick leave ordinance on the ballot in November.

Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, which includes the Texas Organizing Project, the Workers Defense Fund and several other grassroots organizations, needed nearly 65,000 qualified voters registered in the city of Dallas to sign the petition. Now, the city secretary has 30 days to verify the signatures. If the petition is validated, the city secretary will have 20 days to put two agenda items before the City Council: Council members can either approve the ordinance as its written or opt to call for the election for voters to decide. 

Under the 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. 

Paid sick leave in Dallas

An estimated 41 percent of workers in Dallas (more than 300,000 people) don’t have paid sick leave, and low-income and part-time workers are especially unlikely to be covered, according to an analysis last month from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The report says Hispanic and African-American workers in Dallas are less likely to have paid sick leave than workers in any other racial or ethnic group. Fifty-five percent of Hispanic workers and 37 percent of African-American workers don’t have paid sick leave. That’s compared to 31 percent of white workers and 33 percent of Asian workers.

The research also shows state and local government workers are much more likely than private sector workers to have paid sick time. Eighty-five percent of state and local government workers in Dallas have access to paid sick time, compared with 57 percent of private sector workers.

Potential pushback

In February, the Austin City Council passed a similar measure, making the state capital the first city in Texas to mandate paid sick leave. In San Antonio, advocates also launched a ballot initiative and delivered 140,000 petition signatures last month.

These efforts may face opposition in the Legislature next year, though. Some Republican lawmakers have already pledged to bring a bill to functionally overturn local sick leave requirements.

In Austin, a conservative think tank sued over the city’s ordinance in April. And the Texas Attorney General’s office joined the suit.

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.