On Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to pass the The Emergency Paid Sick Leave for Oakland Employees measure. The legislation will provide numerous protections for our frontline service workers – from grocery clerks to delivery drivers – who are at higher risk of infection. Frontline essential workers are now able to take the necessary paid sick leave time they need without having to face financial hardships or fear of losing their jobs, making it much safer and easier to prioritize the health and livelihood of our whole community.
The new Emergency Paid Sick Leave For Oakland Employees measure went into effect immediately; what does this mean for Oakland workers? The measure:
– Requires employers within Oakland to provide workers affected by COVID-19 up to 10 days (80 hours) of paid sick leave (measure only applies to businesses in Oakland, not Oakland residents who work in other cities)
– Applies to companies with over 500 employees – a critical piece left out by federal legislation (exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 employees)
– Exempts nonprofits, health care and businesses who already offer 160 hours of paid leave (80 hours of paid sick leave) 
– Applies to gig workers (contract workers such as Uber or Lyft) and other non full-time employees
– Applies to employees who are isolated or quarantined due to a public health order, told to self-quarantine, carry symptoms of COVID-19 or have underlying health conditions
– Covers those who care for others who are quarantined or whom have to care for children if school or daycare has been closed
This would not be possible without the leadership of our partner East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the Coalition to Protect Essential Service Workers. We also want to express our gratitude to Councilmember Sheng Thao for her bold leadership in introducing this piece of legislation, as well as Council President Rebecca KaplanCouncilmember Dan Kalb and Councilmember Loren Taylor for co-sponsoring, and Councilmember NIkki Fortunato Bas for standing strong with workers. Our demands for worker protections do not stop here though. We call on the City Council to vote soon on the Right to Return ordinance which will allow workers who were laid off due to COVID-19, the ability to return to work once employers reopen and begin to rehire.
Oakland City Council also has yet to approve a proposal that will finally establish the Department of Workplace and Employment Standards as required by the passage of Measure Z, in order to enforce new worker protections. This pandemic has shown we can no longer stall to ensure our workers are protected and those protections are enforced.
Many of our low-wage workers are immigrants and folks of color, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, not only in catching and dying from the virus but also bearing the brunt of the economic impacts. Let’s rise to the moment and show leadership by protecting our Black and Brown communities. This is a matter of racial equity and justice and we need to put our most vulnerable communities first to receive support and protection.