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Brown Signs Paid Sick Leave Legislation

Elizabeth Aguilera, KPCC

Governor Jerry Brown signing the paid sick leave bill into law on Wednesday, September 10, 2014.

Elizabeth Aguilera, KPCC

Elizabeth Aguilera contributed to this story.

Most workers in California will be entitled to at least three days of paid sick leave next year regardless of whether they work in the corner office or the drive-up window.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law today in Los Angeles. It goes into effect next year and is expected to impact 6.5 million workers mainly in the food and retail sectors.

"These are real people, we all take advantage of their labor and they ought to have basic decency, basic wages, basic benefits, so this three-day sick leave is definitely a step forward,” Brown says.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored the bill and pledged to campaign in other states to pass similar laws. 

Depending on your point of view, the new paid sick days law is either “historic” or “distressing.”  Steve Smith is with the California Labor Federation. He says all workers should be able to earn paid sick days. And he says in San Francisco, where paid sick leave is already mandatory, businesses save money.

“We talked to small businesses in San Francisco, who, prior to the law there, when a few workers got sick it would spread throughout the business,” he says. “Pretty soon they’d have nobody left to run the business and they’d have to shut down for a few days, costing thousands of dollars to the owners.”

State-paid In-Home Supportive Services workers are not eligible to earn sick days. Smith says union groups will keep working to eventually change that.

But John Kabateck takes a much different view. He’s the California Executive Director of The National Federation of Independent Business. He says this imposes another burden on already strained small business owners.

“They’re already facing a high minimum wage, sales, income and gas tax increases, scores of regulations and frivolous lawsuits,” he says. “Why are we adding to the cost of labor by something that small business owners don’t need, something they are doing already with their employees and something that will just drive up unemployment in California.”

Kabateck says leaving IHSS workers out proves the state doesn’t want to pay for an expense it’s requiring businesses to take on.