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Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Charity fuels push for paid sick leave

Although labor unions have been seen as the main driver of efforts to mandate paid sick leave for businesses in New York City, one of the effort’s bigger contributors turns out to be a public charity: The Rockefeller Family Fund, which was founded in 1967 by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

Lisa Guide, the Rockefeller Fund’s associate director, confirmed that the organization had put about $250,000 into recent efforts to pass a paid sick leave bill in New York City. She said that money has gone to groups including the Working Families Organization (a lobbying group associated with the union-backed Working Families Party); the immigrant rights group Make the Road New York; the nonprofit A Better Balance; and the advocacy group Moms Rising.

Those groups recently helped lead a well-publicized rally at City Hall pressuring Council Speaker Christine Quinn to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Ms. Quinn has not done so, citing the cost to struggling businesses.

The money poured into the effort by the Rockefeller Family Fund has led to grumblings among the bill’s detractors that they’re being outgunned by supporters of a paid-sick-leave mandate.

The charity’s Ms. Guide said that in previous campaigns around the country, supporters of mandatory paid sick leave had typically been outspent by business interests.

“I don’t know how much is being spent here, but I do know that in other places we’ve been outspent 3 to 1,” Ms. Guide said.

It’s difficult to know how much money is being spent on each side of the contentious paid-sick-leave debate. The issue has emerged as a top priority of the Working Families Party, which receives substantial money from organized labor.

The five boroughs’ chambers of commerce, which have been the public face of efforts against the bill, have comparatively scant resources. But they are allied on this issue with the deep-pocketed Partnership for New York City, which paid for a costly study by Ernst & Young in 2010 that concluded that a previous version of the paid-sick-leave bill would badly harm the local economy.

The Rockefeller Family Fund, based in Manhattan, has made advocacy for working women one of its core issues in recent years. In 2010 and 2011, it put a combined $100,000 toward the Working Families Organization’s successful push for paid sick days in Connecticut, according to the fund’s website.

Recent amendments to the paid-sick-leave bill proposed by Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick have gotten a positive reception from a few business leaders, but the chambers of commerce remain steadfastly opposed. Still, there is talk that a compromise bill could be in the works.

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