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Know Your Rights
Source: City Limits
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Business Owner: Paid Sick Leave Bill Not Bad Medicine

The City Council is considering a proposed law that would give paid sick days to all workers in New York City. I support this proposal as a business owner and as a person. As a business owner, experience has shown me that it is difficult to find employees that I can trust. In fact, trust between my employees and I is incredibly important because I have more than one store to run and I need to be sure that everything will go smoothly while I’m not there. Because of this I believe it is crucial to create an environment where my employees are confident in themselves and their job, and where they can provide better service. I also know that finding someone new who you can trust is difficult and costly.

Now, when one of my employees gets sick, I pay them the day. The other day one of my employees’ daughters was sick, and could not go to school. I paid her the sick day like I do for other employees. Between all of my five employees they took only three sick days all of last year, and although I have not made it an official business policy, I think that five days would be a good number for someone to have in one year. It would be much easier to manage the situation if there was a level playing field and all business owners had to do it.

That is why I believe the paid sick days proposal would be a good way to strengthen my business.

Of course, there would be a cost. But in reality it would not be much. At the most I would pay a few hundred dollars a year, per worker. This amount is small compared to how much I pay in rent per month. In fact, considering the benefits to the business, the employee and the public, I think the proposal is cheap. I know the money I pay my employee for those sick days will come back to me in another way – increased sales, smoother running stores, my employees taking more responsibility that I otherwise would have to take.

I support paid sick days also because I put myself in my employees place. I’ve worked in situations without paid sick days. I know what it is to work in these conditions, where it is employees against the bosses, and I knew that if I was sick one day my boss could pick up the phone and call the agency for another employee. So when I started my own business I knew I would not create the same situation with my employees. In fact, the other day when my employees’ daughter was sick, I felt good paying her a sick day because as a mother I know what it is to have a daughter get sick.

Finally, I know my neighborhood would benefit from the law. According to the department of labor, 63 percent of low wage workers in New York do not receive paid sick days. Other studies have estimated that around a million workers in New York lack this benefit. I know that in Bushwick many of my clients don’t have paid sick days, and some refrain from buying jeans for themselves or flowers for their loved ones because they do not feel secure in their jobs. Paid sick days would be one way to help create more confidence and encourage people to buy in our stores because they don’t have to worry about losing work because they were sick and having to pay medical bills. In other low income and immigrant neighborhoods in New York I know it is the same. I believe the law would be a small economic stimulus to the neighborhoods hardest hit by the economic crisis.

The proposal is not asking much. Five days for small businesses and nine for large ones is not too much to ask. Paid sick days legislation makes good common sense. As a business owner, a woman, and immigrant and a mother, I believe this bill is good for my business and good for my community.

**Maria de los Santos is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY).