March 3, 2021

Workers and organizers rally for paid sick leave bill

Organizers held a virtual rally Tuesday evening in support of a bill that would enable workers statewide to earn paid sick leave to care for themselves or a loved one.

HB 20 passed the House chamber by a vote of 36 to 33 on Sunday. The rally organizers, a group of nonprofit organizations that, together, called themselves the Paid Sick Leave Coalition, cheered its passage in the House and expressed hope that the bill will also make it to the state Senate.

Related: Bill to mandate paid sick leave passes House

The Healthy Workplaces bill would, if passed, mandate that all private employers allow workers to accrue up to 8 days of paid sick leave a year. Two of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, of Albuquerque, and Rep. Angelica Rubio, of Las Cruces, spoke virtually during the rally about the work to get the bill through.

Roybal Caballero apologized to the workers on the virtual call because of what the opposition said during the previous debates around the bill.

“I feel ashamed that you had to hear the kind of discussion that went on when we were dealing with the bill in committee. It is heart wrenching for me to have to sit there having lived these experiences. It broke my heart because I was a single mom and I had to decide if I would have life threatening surgery. My employer said I wouldn’t have a job to come back to,” Roybal Caballero said.

Many workers spoke about personal experiences. One woman who identified herself only as Catherine said she works in the restaurant industry and has caught the flu from a coworker who came to work sick.

“In my experience I’ve worked with sick coworkers who were unable or unwilling to go home. Coworkers have to duck and dodge. I called in sick with pink eye and my boss made me drive to work to prove I had pink eye,” she said.

Another worker, Anamaria Dahl, said she is a survivor of domestic violence. Paid sick leave would make a difference in her life because she still suffers from the affects of the abuse she suffered several years ago, she said.

“It doesn’t take overnight to heal. I need ongoing treatment or my shoulders and my hips go out of place” she said, adding that she has had to miss most of her doctor appointments due to a lack of paid sick time.

If the bill passes, an employee would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Rubio said she is confident the bill will land on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for signature.

“There was so much frustration and sadness and heartache even before COVID. We as a state and as a Legislature have never provided you all with paid sick time. It’s ridiculous to me we’ve never done this and we’re having to fight for it,” she said.