After nearly five hours of testimony, the Austin City Council voted 9 to 2 in support of a paid sick day ordinance that will guarantee every Austin worker the opportunity to accrue paid sick time. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and our reproductive health, rights and justice partners organized supporters, visited city council members and rallied with the Work Strong Austin coalition for several weeks urging council member to pass the measure. This ordinance will affect thousands of Austin workers and families and make abortion care more accessible in our community.
Alexa Garcia-Ditta, our communications director, delivered the following testimony at the February 15 hearing:
Good evening, Mayor Adler and council members. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak today.
My name is Alexa Garcia-Ditta and I’m the communications director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. As a small nonprofit employer, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is proud to live our progressive values by providing paid sick time and paid time off to our employees. For 40 years, our statewide policy and advocacy organization has been working toward a future where every Texan has access to abortion care free from political interference, shame and stigma. We also organize in local Texas communities, like Austin, to rally support for abortion access and policy and grassroots initiatives that ensure reproductive justice for all.
We’re here on behalf of our nearly 20,000 Austin supporters to urge you all to vote YES on the proposed paid sick day ordinance without any delays.
Every Austin worker deserves the opportunity to take time to attend medical appointments—including abortion care—time to take care of an injury, condition or sickness, and time to seek medical attention or legal action following an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault, for themselves or their family member, without fear of losing their jobs or wages.
This is a reproductive, economic and racial justice issue. It is a feminist value, and it is a family value.
As you know, over the last several years the Legislature has mounted a devastating attack on reproductive health care, including abortion and contraception, in our state. With fewer abortion clinics forcing more Texans to travel for services and a state-mandated 24-hour waiting period, working Texans must take, at minimum, two days off of work to access abortion care. Many people are unable to take that time off and are forced to delay care, making abortion more expensive. In addition, due to discriminatory coverage bans, abortion care is not covered by state, federal, or private insurance in Texas. This means that people seeking abortion in Texas have to unjustly pay out of pocket.
We’re grateful to Council Members Casar, Kitchen, Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Tovo for championing this ordinance because it is a simple way to make abortion care more accessible in our community and ensure people won’t be forced to further delay their care and rack up additional out-of-pocket costs. We’d also like to thank Mayor Adler, Council Members Renteria and Flannigan for expressing your support.
Unsurprisingly, a lack of paid sick leave disproportionately affects women. Women make up the backbone of families and increasingly are the primary earners in their households. They are also more likely to be in lower wage jobs or jobs without any paid leave. Forty-three percent of women working in the private sector are not able to take a single paid sick day when they are ill. Fifty four percent of Latina workers and 42 percent of African American women who work are not able to earn paid sick days. More than half of working mothers (54 percent) do not have even a few paid sick days they can use to care for their sick children.
No one should have to choose between seeking medical care and not being able to pay the light bill. No pregnant person should be forced to delay their abortion care because they can’t take time off work. No mother should have to choose between caring for her sick child and buying groceries. No one should be forced to come to work sick and infect everyone they come into contact with just so they can make rent that month.
Thank you for your time this evening and for considering this critical reproductive justice policy.
We urge you to live Austin’s progressive values, stand with Austin women and vote YES in support the proposed paid sick day ordinance without delay.