Last week San Antonio became the second major Texas city to pass a mandatory paid sick-leave policy for workers. As with Austin, which passed a similar ordinance in February, the city will likely be challenged by the state.
City Council officials voted 9-2 in favor of allowing workers to accrue up to 64 paid sick leave hours each year, “sparking a wave of applause so loud the mayor had to quiet the room,” the Texas Tribune reports.
Despite that on-the-ground support, the measure will probably be preempted. State retribution came swift on the heels of Austin’s policy — mere hours after the council passed it, state Representative Paul Workman promised to file a bill overturning it “on the first day possible,” according to the Tribune. Lobbyists joined in the fight, as Next City covered at the time.
“Certainly here in Texas, we will be pursuing preemptive legislation,” Will Newton, Texas director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a Koch Brothers-backed advocacy group, told the Texas Observer earlier this year. “It’ll be a priority.”
In April, the Texas Public Policy Foundation sued the city over the ordinance. Twenty-nine Republican lawmakers have since signed on to the lawsuit, which argues that city-mandated paid sick leave violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act. An Austin-based appeals court is still deciding whether to block the ordinance before it goes into effect.
But Austin officials at the time of their measure’s passage saw hope in numbers. Mayor Steve Adler called for cities and mayors around the state to join him, arguing that solidarity could be key to defending the new policy from the state. At least one Dallas council member expressed hope that the policy could soon catch on in that city. Now San Antonio has joined the ranks too.
But that doesn’t mean the state will let either policy stand. Texas is particularly fond of state preemption measures, and even officials who voted in favor of the San Antonio ordinance have said they don’t know if it will be allowed to stand.
“It’s my formal, professional opinion that this is preempted by state law… The [Texas] Supreme Court is going to invalidate a San Antonio municipal paid sick leave ordinance,” San Antonio City Councilman Manny Pelaez, who voted in favor of paid sick leave, said recently according to the Tribune.
Still, like most of the other councilmembers, he appeared to believe the policy was worth the challenge.
“Earned paid sick leave allows families to care for their health and make ends meet,” Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said, according to the paper.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.