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Labor support for paid sick leave measure falters

SEIU pulls support for paid sick days bill over exemption for caregivers

A major California union has pulled its support for a proposal to require employers to give their workers at least three paid sick days a year, fracturing support for one of labor's top policy priorities this year. 

Service Employees International Union has announced it will oppose the measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) if the bill undergoes anticipated changes that would leave out certain workers from the proposal.

The amendment would exempt workers in the In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides care for the state's elderly and disabled, from the paid sick days requirement. The changes are the result of negotiations between Gonzalez and Gov. Jerry Brown.

SEIU has alerted lawmakers that it opposes the bill with the proposed changes.

"After decades of exclusion from our nation's labor laws, caregivers are just beginning to be treated equally, so it is shocking that California lawmakers would even consider attempting to send the caregiving workforce to the back of the bus again on sick days," said Laphonza Butler, president of the union's state council, in a statement."

"Caregivers, predominantly women and people of color, deserve the same rights as every other worker. I thought we in California were past the point of debate on such a basic matter of equality and dignity," continued Butler, who also heads SEIU United Long Term Care Workers. 

Gonzalez in an interivew Thursday confirmed that pending amendments to the bill, AB 1522, would include the carve-out for the careworkers.

"I was elected to do the most amount of good for the most amount of people. We are on the cusp of being able to provide, for over 6.5 million people, paid sick days. It would be transformative in the lives of individuals who have never had a collective bargaining agreement, who have not just never had paid sick days, but feared for their jobs when they take a day off work,” she said.

“I’m excited that I’m working with the governor to come to a solution that we can actually get signed," Gonzalez added. "I’m going to continue to fight for all workers in California.”

The governor's office said Thursday evening they were onboard with the plan.

"The administration is in support of the bill and is working closely with the author to get this done,” said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.

Other labor groups continue to support the proposal. Unions representing the building and construction trades, electric workers, pipe fitters and grocery-store workers all alerted members Thursday that they still back the bill.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:40 p.m. PDT: This post has been updated with a comment from the governor's office.

This post was originally published at 6:15 p.m.

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