Faith Leaders Win Historic Victory in Saint Paul: Paid Sick Days for Every Worker
Hundreds of ISAIAH leaders from more than 25 congregations led the charge, calling for an Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) ordinance that would enable all workers the ability to take the time they need to care for themselves and their families. What passed is the strongest ordinance of its kind in the country and covers all 72,000 workers in Saint Paul that currently do not have paid sick leave.
“This ordinance will change the lives of everyone in my family,” said Arline Datu, an ISAIAH leader who played a pivotal role in the campaign. “My three adult children work full time in Saint Paul, and none of them have paid sick time,” continued Arline. “When my grandson Isaac is sick, we all have to scramble to ensure that his parents can get to work and get the pay they need to get by. No one should have to make the choices my children have been forced to make between caring for their families and earning the pay they need.”
ISAIAH’s campaign started 18 months ago when we passed resolutions in support of ESST in every ward during the 2015 caucuses. Since then, more than 1,200 leaders have been engaged in this struggle by participating in clergy lobby days, press conferences, outreach to small businesses, making phone calls, and attending rallies, candidate forums, and public meetings with council members.
When the ordinance takes effect next July, workers will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. Workers may use their paid time for illness or medical care for themselves or their families. They may also use it for “safe time,” to seek counseling, legal support or to relocate in the event of domestic or sexual violence or stalking. ESST also covers parents needing to stay home because of the closure of childcare centers or schools. The ordinance has robust enforcement mechanisms. The policy provides workers with a private right of action, empowering workers to sue their employer in cases of retaliation for using this benefit. Employers who fail to give their workers Earned Sick and Safe Time will face steep fines.
“This ordinance allows every worker in Saint Paul to care for themselves and their families, and to live with dignity. Today we are one step closer to an economy that works for everyone and leaves no one behind,” Rev. Javen Swanson, Associate Pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and leader with ISAIAH.
Our struggle for a moral economy continues. Paid family leave, affordable childcare, and living wages are necessary to make sure that working families have what they need to not just survive, but to thrive.
The passage of the Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance is just one example of the unprecedented victories that are possible when we lead together, grounded in both our struggles and our belief that more is possible.