Last month, after City Council made Austin the first city in the south with a paid sick leave ordinance, I wrote in the Texas Observer that the paid sick leave campaign may have provided a road map for how to push Texas politics to the left.
If activists are as successful at organizing workers in other cities as they were in Austin, it could be a crucial step toward breaking the GOP’s two-decade stranglehold on state politics. By activating low-income workers, an aggressive statewide push by labor groups for paid sick leave would yield political dividends even in the likely event that it is resisted by other city governments or stymied at the Legislature. As the adage goes, “Texas is not a red state, it’s a nonvoting state.” The sooner progressives are able to connect with the largely nonvoting poor and working class, the sooner Texas will become a blue state.
In San Antonio, activists are similarly going for a paid sick leave ordinance, but rather than appeal to City Council, they’re pushing to put a referendum on the ballot. From the perspective of progressives, that strategy is a good one.
First, I’m pretty sure every paid sick leave ordinance that has ever been on a ballot has passed. Arizona voters easily approved a statewide paid sick ordinance on the same day that they voted for Trump.
Second, the strategy could help Democratic candidates by putting an issue on the ballot that appeals directly at the segments of the electorate that Democrats struggle to get to the polls in midterm elections: the poor and the young.
I definitely understand why they are going the referendum route, but I’m a little disappointed that we won’t be able how it would play out among the San Antonio City Council. It would be interesting to see how Democratic/left-of-center officials in other major Texas cities address the issue.
However, as Gilbert Garcia of San Antonio Express-News points out, the Alamo City’s leaders do not appear to have their heart in the labor cause:
Two months ago, the council approved an airport-concessions request for proposals requiring bidders to agree to a labor peace agreement. Within days of the request’s release, however, the council encountered strong objections from local chamber groups that saw it as the first step to unionization throughout the city.
Three weeks ago, in the face of that heat, the council backed away from the labor peace clause and agreed to submit a new request for proposals.