‘This is about dignity' | Small businesses fight for paid sick days for all Austin workers

More than a dozen small businesses came together to declare support for paid sick days for all Austin workers.

AUSTIN - More than one dozen small businesses came together to declare support for paid sick days for all Austin workers, presenting a letter of action to the Austin City Council Wednesday.

It's part of the 'Work Strong Austin' campaign.

A study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found nearly 40 percent of Austin employees can't earn paid sick leave.

Groups involved said workers are at risk of losing wages if they miss days because of an illness, saying no one should have to choose between health and paying bills.

Health care providers, restaurants owners, tech company representatives and community members joined to create a conversation on the issue and bring attention to city council to make policy changes. 

People’s Community Clinic physician Dr. Pritesh Gandhi said paid sick leave can make a difference in the way his patients seek help, and their recovery time. 

"I had a gentleman a few weeks ago come in after a number of months of not seeking care, he has diabetes, heart disease and a couple of kids at home. And I asked him -- that 'you need to come in, you need to come in, you have complex medical issues.' And he said, 'Dr. Gandhi, I can't get off of work, I need to work so I can feed my kids.' And that choice is a really difficult choice for our patients,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

"This is about dignity, this is about basic human care and recognizing that you have a workforce that you need to keep healthy because those people are working for you and the community as well, especially from a restaurant and customer service perspective," said Black Star Co-op brewer Christopher Byram. 

The city is conducting a stakeholder process for community members, looking to get feedback on what kind of policy Austin should adopt. The resolution asks for a summary of the discussion by Dec. 5.

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