LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that will require most California employers next year to provide up to three sick days for millions of workers, a policy long-sought by labor unions and opposed by business groups.
“This is the least we can do,” Brown told reporters after signing the bill at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles, alluding to a growing income gap that has left many Americans struggling to make ends meet.
Supporters said as many as 6.5 million workers — including temporary and part-time employees — will benefit from the law that takes effect next July.
“Whether you’re a dishwasher in San Diego or a store clerk in Oakland, this bill frees you of having to choose between your family’s health and your job,” the Democratic governor said in a statement from his office.
The law will require most employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who work 30 or more days within a year, and workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
The legislation by Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, hit a snag when key unions and some Democrats pulled support in the final hours of the legislative session last month after Brown won an exemption for home health aides for the elderly and people with disabilities.
The exemption affects about 363,000 employees paid through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services network. Granting them the sick days would have increased costs to the state.
The National Federation of Independent Business in California said in a statement that the law will kill plans by small employers to expand their businesses.
“So the state can’t afford its own mandates, but small business owners are supposed to be able to absorb those costs?” asked John Kabateck, the group’s executive director.
He said small business owners make up more than 99 percent of California employers and already face an increase in the minimum wage, higher taxes and more regulations than their counterparts in any other state.
The California Chamber of Commerce previously included the paid sick leave bill on its list of “job killers.” The designation was withdrawn after amendments were made to let employers keep existing policies allowing different accrual rates for sick pay as long as they offer a minimum of three paid days off each year.
Brown signed the legislation with fellow Democrats, many of whom face re-election this year.
Connecticut already has a statewide paid sick leave law, and voters in Massachusetts will decide on a similar proposal in the November election, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, which praised the enactment of the California law but called for it to be expanded to home health workers.
Brown’s challenger in the governor’s race, Republican Neel Kashkari, said he would not have signed the legislation because of the state’s poor climate for creating jobs.
“It’s picking current workers over unemployed people,” he said. “It doesn’t help people who are out of work get jobs, it actually makes the cost of labor higher and that’s the exact opposite of what we ought to be doing.”
Kashkari made the comments after stopping across the street from the state Capitol in a Tesla loaded with 6,500 paper bags intended to symbolize the 6,500 jobs Tesla Motors has said it will create in Nevada, rather than California, and a bill approved by the Legislature that will ban single-use plastic bags.
Kashkari said Brown is focusing on priorities such as paper bags when he should be enacting reforms to create jobs. Kashkari later delivered the bags to the governor’s mail room.