COURAGEOUS TESTIMONIES OF SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS OWNERS
The cover photo depicts what will happen to a lot of small businesses if forced to provide paid sick leave. As bad as it may sound it’s the business truth.
Would you like paid sick leave or no employment at all?
Three business owners provided courageous testimonies to address why Paid Sick Leave for all Employees is not a good option at this time for San Antonio on August 8, 2018 at the open City Council Meeting. Despite the bus that arrived dropping off organized protesters and young activist from across the state at the City Hall in San Antonio, Webhead founder Jane Martinez Gonzalez, Azteca Designs CEO Cecilia Arzola Castellano and New Horizons School Christopher Herring stood up to address the Mayor and City Council with opposing views of the Working Texans for Paid Sick Time Campaign . The City Council chambers were filled until late hours in the evening.
Herring wrote, "while the entitlement of paid sick leave sounds great, and we support all workers, imagine how many businesses will go out of business? The myth is all business owners are super rich and benefit because of President Trump. The reality is many of my Veteran friends took their retirements to invest in their dreams and to be independent. Why the younger generation believe they are owed a part of that investment and the independence is mind boggling. At the end of the day, putting another socialism demand on businesses will be the reason why businesses will not come to San Antonio and why so many will never pursue entrepreneurship."
Andrea Guerrero Guajardo, the former Chair of Workforce Solutions Alamo, addressed it well. She says, "The way that the debate has been framed discounts much more upstream solutions that would make paid sick time less necessary to the average worker. Access to health insurance with no-copay wellness, prevention, and screening services is a start. I think that employers would be well-served to kick in to partially cover costs of premiums that will decrease illness. I think that that we, as a community, need to be focused on social determinants of health that have the most impact on a well workforce. Access to nutrition, safe neighborhoods that encourage physical activity. Cooking classes, workforce development, education. These are all things that speak to the health of a workforce rather than trying to band aid it later. That being said, I completely understand the difficulty faced by small business who have a very small margin and/or a small workforce."
Working Texans For Paid Sick Time Rally Up In San Antonio
Jane Gonzalez led by saying to the Council, "I overwhelmingly sympathize with workers who need to be able to take time-off without penalty or they don’t have it. As a first generation college graduate and Business owner. I broke the cycle or poverty with earning a degree, starting a business, hard work, the desire to improve the quality of life for my family and community. I have remained faithful to family / employees/ and the SA community for 24 years to provide good wages/pay sick / personal / holidays / Health Insurance among other benefits. Not all Small business owners are evil and choose profit over the well being of their employees. Over the years, I have cut my pay many times, worked sick, returned back to work within Three weeks after having my children. Took out loans of my home, cashed savings To make sure we met our business goals, protect jobs and stay in Business. My concern is that the Paid Sick Leave is not the best Way to combat inequality in our city. The inequality in place stems from our city history of attracting low wage employers, lack of quality education, workforce development training programs that our outdated or not enough to propel an individual. This ordinance will not solve the inequality, it will create new obstacles for hard working employees and employers. We have many chronic problems that are systemic that will not be solved overnight. I urged that we approach this differently."
The business owner also had support from other business owners, chambers of commerce organizations, and to include the San Antonio Manufacturing Association.
Cecilia Arzola Castellano, the President of AZTECA Designs, located in district 6 added "We started AZTECA to have a better life for ourselves and for our children, the Word says every generation shall increase but we have actually caused stress and sickness on ourselves and we’ve missed many many events for our children’s events. We believe employer and employee is a team and shall work together to achieve greater things. AZTECA not only is a construction company but we are a business that empowers people to do better for themselves, teach them new things while getting paid NOT on an internship. When my lil one is sick he comes to work with me and lays in a small office. AZTECA already offers paid sick, We take care of our employees whether they are sick or need time off we don’t need an ordinance to tell us how to run our business. We oppose paid sick ordinance for three reasons. First, the city does not have fair contracting opportunities that allow small business to scale up to grow our business to offer more benefits. If businesses don’t have a fair playing field how can we provide more paid sick? Secondly, the city historically has not been able to hold larger employers accountable to small business. I am not confident the city of San Antonio proposed office to be the watchdog will successfully identify and fine larger employers who can afford to hire labor lawyers to skirt the ordinance if it passes. Finally small businesses don’t have systems or personnel in place to support the mandated ordinance. Many business owners as myself operate finances and operations to include HR. We wear many hats."
"In the absence of attending to social determinants of health, if a government is going to mandate paid leave, then I think the government has the obligation to subsidize it in some way. I believe that Texas Workforce Commission should take the lead in seeing how this can be subsidized if this is the will of the people. In my business, I do offer paid sick leave. I however object to this campaign not first addressing the 30,000 small businesses with the conversation first. It seems when activist have figured out what they want to do, they act, get signatures and then ask for feedback. This is a backward approach. I wasn't able to afford paid sick leave when we first bought our company. When your business is failed, you have to sacrifice resources that no one else earned or put out there to help you with. I can tell you in a licensed childcare center, when the state mandates that I have to hire replacements to keep room child to teacher ratios, there is not much flexibility in our model. If I am paying a teacher $10 per hour, they earn $80 for a day assuming they work 8 hours. Under the paid sick situation, the employee that calls in sick is paid $80 plus I have to pay another temp teacher at least twice or three times the rate, as that is our industry. This would be an additional $160 to $240 or $240 to $320 for a day of pay to address the one sick employee and the temp hire. This is what drives businesses in my industry out of business. The only way to combat the increase of cost is to raise tuition and fees which is passed on to the public. Small business owners all have different business models and regulations. One size doesn't fit all." said Herring
Herring concludes, "If the Affordable Care Act would have been allowed to be fully implemented, this would have had longitudinal effects on the health of the workforce. Alas, that is not where we are. And that would have been subsidized by the federal government and insurance companies for the folks who needed it the most."
"There is an initiative in SA that is just standing up called Health Impact Investing. It is a call for private and managed insurers as well as private business to invest in evidenced based programs that target the health issues and social determinants with the most impact. It's part of The Health Collaborative. There is an emerging narrative that recognizes the need for wrap around services related to health and social services that help keep people employed. " said Andrea Guerrero Guajardo.