Labor leaders [including Make the Road NY] and public health advocates are hoping retooled paid sick days legislation will come through the City Council with a clean bill of health.
More than 1 million city workers currently do not get paid sick time, advocates calculate. Legislation to change that has languished in the council.
Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer is advancing a revised bill — with enough co-sponsors to make it veto-proof — that would exempt employers with fewer than five employees. The bill would still provide protections for workers who do have to lose up to five days on the job because they’re ill.
Backers of the bill, including reps from the small business community, who will rally on its behalf at City Hall on Wednesday, say that would exempt more than 60% of city employers — possibly making the legislation palatable enough to get to the Council floor.
Among the other changes disclosed to The Daily News:
– New businesses with under 20 workers would get a one-year grace period before having to observe the policy;
– The number of workers employed would be determined by full-time equivalents, not the number of bodies (a company with six workers doing 30 hours a week would not have to give paid leave); and
– Businesses can assign the amount of sick time at the start of the year instead of letting it accrue.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn has opposed the sick leave bill, saying both that it could put an undue paperwork burden on small businesses and that this isn’t the best economic moment to institute the policy.
A spokesman said her position on the legislation has not changed since she said in 2010, the year when the bill was first introduced, “Providing sick leave to working New Yorkers is a noble goal, and supporters of this bill have the best of intentions. But now is simply not the right time for a measure that threatens the survival of small business owners.”
The Partnership For New York City business group came out with a 2010 study saying the proposed sick pay deal would be a staggering financial burden on small outfits and specific sectors such as restaurants and retail.
“We see no way that the city can impose paid sick leave on private employers without causing damage to the most fragile components of the city economy,” Partnership CEO Kathryn Wylde told the News Tuesday.
Just Friday, however, came the news that Quinn supports a compromise measure on another piece of legislation close to the hearts of unions: A controversial “living wage” bill. Whether that could signal a broader change of heart on pay issues — particularly in advance of the upcoming 2013 Democratic primary for mayor — remains unclear.
(Update: Our Reuven Blau passes along Quinn’s comment from today on paid sick leave. She said, “I didn’t see it and haven’t had time to review it so I cannot comment. That said, in this economic environment we are in small businesses are hanging on by a thread in many cases. Although the bill is laudable it is not one I can support because I think it is one that is going to cost us jobs and small businesses.”)
Brewer and others frame sick pay as a public health issue — who wants a restaurant worker sneezing in the soup? — and hope the changes may allay some of those concerns.
“It polls really well,” she said. “If you say, ‘Do you think workers should have paid sick time?’ They look at you and say, ‘What? They don’t have paid sick time?’ or they say, ‘Of course, they should.’”
Vincent Alvarez, president of the Central Labor Council — an umbrella group for public, private and building trade unions — says labor’s more sharply focused on paid sick leave than in the past.
He also makes it a moral issue: “No one should have to choose between caring for themselves or a sick child and losing their job.”
Update: Speaking of 2013, here’s what another potential mayoral contender, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, had to say about the revised legislation: “Paid sick leave is about providing economic security to working families across this city. Parents should not have to miss a day’s pay or put their job at risk to stay home and care for a sick child. This is a matter of profound economic urgency, especially for struggling families in the outer boroughs. I applaud Council Member Gale Brewer and the New York Paid Leave Coalition for laying out a new compromise today that will increase productivity and help small businesses protect their bottom line. With past concerns laid to rest, we owe it to working families to act now.”
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