The city of Dallas is ramping up to implement its new paid sick leave ordinance on Aug. 1 and along with it, nonprofits and political groups are working to educate employees on this new law.
Starting Aug. 1, any employee of a private business or nonprofit who performs at least 80 hours of work within Dallas in a single year has the right to earn paid sick time.
Thursday night, the North Texas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America hosted a “pub crawl” along Cedar Springs Road, canvassing small businesses in the area to bring awareness of this new law. They were equipped with the official city of Dallas signage that outlines the ordinance, as well as business cards with an overview of the law and contact information, where employees can learn more.
In addition to the city of Dallas contacts, the DSA included their own. They set up a Google Voice number and dedicated DSA email address, because they’re not sure how responsive the city will be.
Rollout of the ordinance has been shaky. It’s not very well-advertised, and even the city’s website is not yet finished.
“It passed in April, but a lot of workers may not know they’re getting this,” said Nan Kirkpatrick, DSA member. “We needed a way to go out and get to people. We figured if we can get out and educate employees that they’re getting this right, then they can ask for it.”
The pub crawl started at Alexandre’s Bar on Cedar Springs Road, with DSA members gathering and organizing there before leaving to canvass. “It’s a canvass-friendly area,” says Lee Daughtry, owner of Alexandre’s. “It’s pretty common ... they’re used to voter registrars and activists around here.”
DSA members split up Oak Lawn Avenue, with one group going down each side of the street. Overwhelmingly, people they talked to were not aware of this new ordinance.
“I hadn’t heard of it before, no,” says Elex Blaylock, a bartender at TMC. “It’ll help, but it won’t change anything, honestly. I don’t take any sick days. If I do use it, it’ll be awesome. But I didn’t really know about it.”
Most seemed interested and took the information given to them by the DSA.
Micah Rabalais, another DSA member, said this canvass was easier than ones they’ve done in the past.
“This is a little unique because it’s a city ordinance that passed,” he said. “We’re just educating. We’re not asking for signatures.”
Getting on the ground and talking with people face-to-face is at the heart of the DSA. “We canvass for a lot of stuff,” Rabalais added. “We have a transit-riders group that’s been doing canvassing around DART changing their fare structure. The health care working group does canvassing to raise awareness for Medicare for All, or when we’re getting ready to do the flu clinic. We have a lot of boots on the ground. We try to consistently have events and outreach.”
Whether they were previously educated on it or not, many people the DSA spoke with were excited and grateful for the new ordinance.
“This is my first job that hasn’t had sick leave,” said Jeffery Acree, bartender at Alexandre’s. “I’m thankful sick leave has finally come down to this type of business. Everybody needs to be protected by paid sick time because everybody gets sick.”
“I think it’s outstanding,” added Garrett Dennington. “I’ve been in the hospitality industry for 16 years and I’ve never had anything like this before. It is a workforce, just like any other workforce, and I believe we should have those rights, as everyone should. Things happen without control.”
This paid sick leave pub crawl on Cedar Springs was the first of five similar events the DSA has planned.
“We picked out six strategic areas, a lot of entertainment districts, that we’re going to hit,” Kirkpatrick said. “We figure that restaurant workers are one group of folks that don’t typically have paid sick leave built into their policy already and will benefit greatly from this ordinance.”