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OAKLAND — Citing a lack of a quorum, the Oakland City Council abruptly cancelled a Tuesday meeting on an emergency sick leave policy that would have covered all workers in the city affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The cancellation appeared on the City Council’s website without further elaboration and it was unclear when the vote on the emergency sick leave policy will be taken up.

“I am disappointed in the sudden lack of quorum,” stated District 4 Council member Sheng Thao, who sponsored the emergency ordinance. “I personally stood ready to take action at today’s meeting to address some of the needs our community faces during this difficult time. I am further disappointed that thousands of our fellow Oaklanders will have to wait on this lifesaving measure.

“Right now, thousands of workers are risking their lives and livelihood,” Thao’s statement continued. “Because of this cancellation, they will have to continue to wait to receive paid sick leave benefits that can help protect not only their lives but the lives of their families and their customers, as well.”

Thao’s proposal calls for employers in Oakland to provide 80 hours or 10 days of paid sick leave to workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Thao’s legislation is co-sponsored by council members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb and Loren Taylor.

Although no date was set, Thao stated: “I look forward to voting on this measure at our next council meeting.”

Kate O’Hara, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, in a statement. said the cancellation was “deeply disappointing.

“Oakland workers do not have time to wait,” O’Hara continued. “People are being forced to choose between their health and their livelihoods during a pandemic. The City Council must vote this legislation through as soon as possible. No more games: Our health depends on all of us. Protect Oakland workers. Protect our community.”

O’Hara said the emergency paid sick leave ordinance would go beyond the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act by requiring all employers to provide paid sick leave — including those with more than 500 employees, who were left out of the federal legislation. It also applies to gig workers and other workers not classified as full-time employees, like Uber and Lyft drivers.

If passed, it would make Oakland the fourth city in the state — after Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco — to adopt a measure to address the devastating impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, according to the alliance.

The legislation would apply to employees who are isolated or quarantined because of a public health order, told to self-quarantine, have symptoms of coronavirus or because of underlying health conditions. It would also cover those caring for others who are quarantined, or caring for children if their school or daycare has been closed.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides two weeks and up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds the worker’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a need to care for someone subject to quarantine or to care for a child whose school or daycare has been shuttered.  Thao said her legislation would bridge the gap and cover up to 100 percent of the paid sick leave.

The council was also scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance to establish the Department of Workplace & Employment Standards, which would be responsible for enforcement of workforce provisions such as the sick leave proposal.

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Author: Jon Kawamoto

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