Lucila Lozoya is an educator and mother of three children. When there was a COVID surge at her workplace, her boss didn’t have the best response, she said, which caused more positive cases.
“During this time, our employer never granted us federally paid sick leave, which makes it even more difficult to make decisions about our health and what my family should eat,” she said. . “Eventually I decided not to return to work because of the multiple cases there.”
She needed time to get surgery to treat her cancer.
“Never in my life have I been through such difficult and extreme financial situations,” Lozoya said. “We lost almost everything.
The experience taught Lozoya that paid sick leave is a human right.
“I am very proud to be among the essential workers who have been at the forefront of this pandemic and that we continue to organize to improve our working conditions,” Lozoya said.
She is also a community leader with The Center for Equality and Rights.
She said Burqueño families have been fighting for paid sick leave since 2015. The pandemic has affected many low-income working families like hers, Lozoya said, especially when it comes to health and stability. financial.
Lozoya was speaking at a virtual press conference celebrating New Mexico’s statewide sick leave law that applies to all private employers called the Healthy Workplaces Actwhich came into effect on Friday.
She was joined by other workers, organizers and state lawmakers, including Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos) who took the bill to the Legislature in 2021 before Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham don’t sign it.
The new law requires all employers to provide workers with up to 64 hours of paid sick leave per year, accrued based on the number of hours worked.
The movement that brought paid sick leave to New Mexico was worker-led, said Lan Sena, policy director at the Center for Civic Policy and former Albuquerque city councilman.
“We are happy that this has finally come to fruition and that everyone – all workers in New Mexico, regardless of the industry they work in – will be covered,” Lozoya said.
People looking for work don’t always have protections like paid sick leave, “especially since COVID is still roaming,” Sena said. Almost all residents of the United States were in areas of high or substantial transmission of covid this week, according to CDC data.
Is New Mexico ready to enforce the law?
It remains to be seen how many bosses will follow the law and how many of those who don’t will be the subject of lawsuits filed either with the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions or in civil courts across the country. ‘State.
As of June 22, the department’s labor relations division had nine full-time labor law investigators, including seven based in Albuquerque and two in Las Cruces, a DWS spokesperson said.
It also has three administrative assistants, a paid and hourly supervising investigator, a business operations specialist and an ombudsman who deal with allegations of labor law violations.
That’s two fewer full-time investigators than in October 2021, when the department said it had 11 investigators.
The department asked lawmakers for $893,444 to pay for five new investigator positions, but only received $735,000, department spokeswoman Stacy Johnston said. The money will help pay for more than five employment law investigators, a staff attorney, a paralegal, an administrative assistant, a technical support analyst and a systems analyst.
NM Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) said the department is “very organized.”
“I think they’re ready – and even if they’re not, we’re moving forward,” Stewart said. Most New Mexico state agencies are struggling during the pandemic, she added.
She pointed to the product department attach which tells workers what their rights are and which employers must now display in the workplace.
“We definitely increased their budget specifically for that,” Stewart said. “We will continue to review this and adjust the budget upwards for this department, if more is needed. They don’t hesitate to tell us when they need more workers.
As of Thursday, the department had not filled or advertised the new positions funded by the Legislative Assembly. The positions will be advertised from Friday, the start of the new fiscal year, the spokesperson said.
Essential workers are more likely to catch and die from COVID
The pandemic’s racist effects won’t all be resolved with paid sick leave, Sena said, but it’s a step in the right direction.
To research shows that paid sick leave reduces the number of workers who come to work sick.
Low-income black and brown Americans lost more work than others during COVID surges, according to a new analysis of census data between August 2020 and June 2022 by Julia Raifman, assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health , and Aaron Sojourner , labor economist at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Analysis, published Tuesday, found that families earning less than $50,000 in 2019 were 12 times more likely to report missing seven days of work due to COVID-19 than those earning at least $200,000.
Hispanics and blacks were more than twice as likely to report missing work due to COVID symptoms as white or Asian Americans, the analysis found. This is consistent with other data showing that Blacks, Hispanics and Indigenous people are more likely contract coronavirus and die from COVID, the analysts wrote.
They also found that low-income people had a higher risk of being exposed to the coronavirus even when taking vaccination status into account.
The disproportionate loss of work was consistent with high exposure to the virus through work, household and community crowding.
Other studies have shown that when COVID disrupts a worker’s income and schedule, they not only suffer from short- and long term effects of the disease on health, but also did not enough food eat, especially when there is no paid sick leave available to them.
A lack of food and shelter can affect people’s entire lives and make it even harder for low-income communities to lift themselves out of poverty, the analysis finds, and this inequality ripples through the rest of the economy.
“Low-income workers are a lot less likely to have paid sick leave, which would offer material support to their families in times of loss of income, even if they are the ones who need it most,” the analysts wrote, which increases the risk of bad health and poverty.
The researchers recommended the direct and systematic delivery of vaccines to low-income neighborhoods and workplaces as a way to achieve more equitable vaccination and boost rates. They conclude that we need to expand our definition of who is “at high risk” for serious illness from coronavirus infection to include black, Hispanic, Native Americans and low-income Americans.
Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces) agreed that policymakers should consider the idea.
“As far as policy goes, I know it’s a lot harder to have that conversation in terms of broadening definitions, but I certainly think it’s worth considering those options in the future, not necessarily only for COVID, but for other public health issues,” Rubio said.
Stewart said the state House of Representatives also attempted to pass paid family and medical leave statewide, which would have provided paid leave for workers to care for children, the elderly or other family members. The sick leave law allows workers to help a family member get treatment for an illness, but not just to care for them.
They failed to get the bill passed and instead passed a Memorial create a working group to determine how the policy could be carried out, she said.
“Hopefully by January we’ll have a good idea of how this might work,” Stewart said.
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