SAN ANTONIO – A Bexar County judge has blocked the City of San Antonio’s Sick and Safe Leave policy from taking effect on Dec. 1.
Judge Peter Sakai on Friday granted a temporary injunction as a coalition of businesses and associations fights the controversial ordinance. The coalition had argued the ordinance is unconstitutional and goes against the state’s minimum wage act, while supporters argue it’s necessary for thousands of working families.
A full trial to decide the fate of the paid sick leave will be held as soon as possible, according to Sakai’s letter to the attorneys.
In a statement from the City of San Antonio, City Attorney Andy Segovia said, “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision to enjoin the ordinance.”
"We will evaluate our legal options going forward, including appealing this decision to the Fourth Court of Appeals,” Segovia said.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he will continue to support the ordinance.
“It is good for working families, businesses and the community,” he said in a statement. "I will continue fighting to provide sick and safe leave for San Antonio workers.”
Nirenberg added that he asked City Manager Erik Walsh to examine “all areas” where the city can provide sick and safe leave protections to local employees.
“Even while the legal maneuvers surrounding the city’s ordinance continue, I would like to work with City Council to assess possible options that would cover as many San Antonio workers as possible by placing sick and safe leave protections in city contracts and other similar instances," he said.
Sick and Safe Leave is an amended version of the “Earned Paid Sick Time” ordinance that was passed in August 2018. The current version was passed on Oct. 3 after months of work by the Paid Sick Leave Commission.
Before all that, though, the issue was first brought up through a petition campaign that got more than 140,000 signatures.
Some of the same people involved in that campaign gathered at Main Plaza on Friday to chant, hold signs and even protest in the street to show their displeasure with the ruling and also their determination to continue fighting.
“We may not win today with Judge Peter Sakai, but we eventually will win, whether it be in the courts or whether it be out here in the streets. We will make sure that our governments reflect the will of the people," said Joleen Garcia, a community organizer with the Texas Organizing Project.
Earlier in the afternoon, some of them had stood with City Council members Ana Sandoval, Roberto Trevino, Shirley Gonzales and Jada Andrews-Sullivan, who unveiled and submitted a new Council Consideration Request.
The CCR asks for the inclusion of several measures meant to advance the goals of the Sick and Safe Leave policy, even if the ordinance is sidelined for now. Similar to Nirenberg’s request, it asks for the Governance Committee to consider a requirement that anyone receiving operational funding from the city, such as contractors or city-created non-profits, have a Sick and Safe Leave policy that meets what the city passed.
The request also includes a request to explore CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System adopting similar policies and creating a program that would help businesses voluntarily implement their own Sick and Safe Leave policies.
The coalition pushing back against Sick and Safe Leave, which includes the San Antonio Manufacturers Association and the San Antonio Restaurant Association, originally filed a lawsuit in July, prior to the passage of the current ordinance. However, the businesses and associations are not pleased with this version either.
The revised city ordinance would require employers to allow employees to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work.
It requires that local businesses allow workers to accrue at least 56 hours of paid sick and safe leave per year.
City officials have said about 340,000 people work in San Antonio and currently do not have paid time off.
The Sick and Safe Leave could be used for illness, taking care of sick family members or for safety issues, such as escaping abusive relationships.
“The effects of the ordinance on our clients would certainly be increased costs, not only to them and their bottom lines, but certainly to every consumer," said the coalition’s attorney. "At the end of the day, these are businesses and the cost of doing business is passed on to the customer.”
City Manager Erik Walsh released the following statement:
“The City would like to thank the Paid Sick Leave Commission for their thoughtful work and consideration in crafting this ordinance, which will afford working families the opportunity to accrue sick and safe leave so they can seek medical help, safety from harm and tend to ill family members."
District 8 Councilman Manny Peláez released the following statement:
“For more than a year, I have warned that adopting a mandatory PSL ordinance would result in taxpayer-funded litigation and cautioned that this ordinance, albeit well intentioned, was prone to be blocked by the courts. I am already hearing some people express the idea that the City submit this ruling to the Fourth Court of Appeals. I have no reason to believe that the appellate court will reverse today’s ruling, and as such, can not support committing more resources towards protracted litigation.”