Austin Independent Business Alliance launches appeal of paid sick leave draft ordinance

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The Austin Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization of local businesses, is asking its members to sign a petition opposing the city of Austin’s draft ordinance mandating that private employers provide paid sick leave.

The ordinance, which is sponsored by District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, proposes a minimum of eight sick days per year for full-time employees. Employers who offer paid time off policies that meet the requirements will be considered compliant.

More than 220,000 Austin workers stand to benefit from such a policy.

In late January, AIBA conducted a poll of its members to determine its stance on the proposed ordinance, which City Council is expected to consider Feb. 15. Nearly 90 percent of respondents opposed the ordinance.

As a result, AIBA has opposed a citywide paid sick leave policy, citing governmental overreach and a disproportionate burden on small businesses.

“[The ordinance] imposes a mandated city policy that their counterparts and competitors in other cities don’t have to content with,” AIBA Executive Director Rebecca Melancon said of its effect on small businesses.

Many larger business typically have accounting software, but small businesses may not, which means owners will have to tally earned sick hours manually if the ordinance is passed. Additionally, Melancon said, the proposed policy restricts business owners’ ability to offer to benefits that work best for their employees, whether it is flexible scheduling or paid time off.

“The burden does fall primarily on small businesses,” she said.

Paid sick leave is least accessible to hourly workers, particularly those in the service and construction industries. Melancon suggested that City Council work to address that problem, “rather than applying an umbrella policy that affects everyone.

The city conducted a series of public input meetings and administered an online forum.

“I have been a part of many democratic processes, but personally, this ordinance is the culmination of one of the most thorough and demanding processes I’ve ever participated in,” Casar said. “I’m grateful for the working families, small-business leaders and advocates who have been engaged in this policy process to ensure no one in Austin has to choose between paying their bills or taking care of themselves or a loved one when they are sick.”

Still, Melancon hopes the petition will sway council members.

“I’m trying to get them to put the breaks on this for a lot of reasons,” she said.

Not all small and local businesses oppose the ordinance, however.

Work Strong Austin, a campaign in support of the ordinance led by the Workers Defense Project, has partnered with a number of small and local businesses in support of the policy, including Home Slice Pizza, tech firm Exstratus and Wheatsville Food Co-op.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her reporting focuses include employment and higher education. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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