By Senator Royce West
According to TX Sen. Royce West, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has highlighted the desperate need for federally mandated paid sick leave in the United States. “As many as 78 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck according to a recent survey,” he said. “We know, statistically, many of those families are African American and Hispanic. The potential economic hardships this could cause a Texas family are tremendous.”
Noting that African American and Hispanic Texans will be disproportionately impacted, he continued, “I think of a Hispanic dad or a single African American mother who works two jobs to make ends meet, has no vacation time, no savings, and ends up out of work for two weeks, and it stops me cold in my tracks.
“You know what comes next–they can’t pay the rent and are evicted, they get behind on their car note, their electric bill, and more.”
Sen. West is no stranger to these scenarios. “I have had families– white, Hispanic, and African American–sit across from my desk in my senate district and tell me this is what happens. I’ve seen mothers and fathers who don’t want to ask for help but are stuck when they have nowhere to turn because of a sudden, brief illness,” Sen. West said.
“Two weeks out of work may not be much if you make $200,000 a year, have a vacation, paid sick time, and savings. “To Hispanic and African American families who are middle class and low-income, it could mean economic devastation.”
Sen. West added that for families of color already on the razor’s edge of poverty, it may mean the difference between a roof over their head or homelessness. He said he believed every working American should be entitled to at least seven calendar days per year of federally-mandated paid sick leave.
“Frankly, that’s not enough. It really should be more. However, I am a pragmatic person, and I know that we must build a coalition to get this passed in the Senate and in the House,” he said. “I will introduce this legislation when I am in the U.S. Senate, and work to build a coalition to get it passed.
He continued, “Republicans are fond of saying Texans should pull themselves up by the bootstraps. And many times, when they use that language to attack programs such as food stamps, housing vouchers, and disability services, we know that is dog-whistle racism.
“You cannot pull yourself up by the bootstraps when you can’t afford boots, and that is the situation in which many African American and Hispanic Texans find themselves,” West continued. “We must do more for working Americans and working Texans.”