This spring, as workers' rights advocates began their push for mandatory paid sick leave for every worker employed in Dallas, one of the biggest questions that bubbled to the surface is just how many people in the city need paid sick leave. New data from the nonpartisan Institute for Women's Policy Research answers that question.
According to the research — for which data was gathered primarily from federal sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — about 737,000 people work in Dallas. Of those, 41 percent, or about 300,000, don't have any paid sick leave.
Who does, and who doesn't, have access to paid sick leave in the city breaks down along the lines you might expect. Sixty-nine percent of white workers have access to paid time off for illness, compared with 63 percent of black workers and 45 percent of Latino workers.
Those with jobs that are typically considered white collar have more access to time off, as well. Eighty percent of management, business and financial operations employees can stay home without sacrificing income, compared with just 36 percent of those who work in the service industry and 34 percent of those employed in maintenance jobs.
Part-time workers are the worst off. Just 23 percent of Dallas workers employed fewer than 35 hours per week get paid sick time. Two-thirds of employees working at least 40 hours per week get paid time off.
Further research published in the Heath Affairs journal in 2016 shows that workers without paid leave are three times as likely to skip out on needed health care for themselves and twice as likely to do so for a loved one than those who wouldn't have to forego pay for missed time.
"All Dallas workers, regardless of what kind of job they have or how much they earn, should be able to care for themselves or a loved one in time of illness," said the Rev. Michael Greene, pastor at Highland Hills United Methodist Church in Dallas and a clergy leader with Faith in Texas, one of the groups pushing to get paid sick leave on the ballot in November. "Unfortunately, too many of our friends and neighbors are forced to choose between their health and their job because they don’t have access to paid sick days."
The push for paid sick leave in Dallas comes after the Austin City Council passed an identical ordinance earlier this year. If passed, the ordinance urged by advocates would require employers to give a worker one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to eight days per year.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a challenge against the Austin ordinance, which he believes violates Texas' prohibition against cities raising the minimum wage beyond the federal level.
“The Austin City Council’s disdain and blatant disregard for the rule of law is an attempt to unlawfully and inappropriately usurp the authority of the state lawmakers chosen by Texas voters and must be stopped,” Paxton said.
Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston, one of the biggest public supporters of the leave ordinance, said last month that it's a commonsense measure, not an attempt to make Dallas into a socialist republic, despite Paxton's claims.
"Just because a waitress gets a sick day off, or gets to go take her kid to the doctor without fear of losing her job or her income, I don't think it means that she's going to seize the means of production," Kingston told the Observer.
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