A bill requiring city businesses to provide paid sick leave to their employees passed the City Council with overwhelming support last week, and proponents who have long been fighting for the measure said it was long overdue.
“We’re very excited,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-director of Make the Road New York, a Jackson Heights-based immigration advocacy group. “This is a huge step forward.”
She said Make the Road members have fought for more than three years for paid sick days and many low-wage workers are hit hardest by the lack of paid leave.
“We see our members losing their jobs when they take a day off,” she said. “They really always have to choose between making a day’s wages and staying at home to take care of a sick child .… They often have to choose against their families so they can put food on the table.”
The compromise bill, which will go into effect April 1, 2014, will require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days to their full-time workers. Businesses with 15 or more employees will also be required to provide five paid sick days starting Oct. 1, 2015.
The bill also provides for protections for businesses by including a measure that would delay the law from taking effect if the economy worsens. It also reduced the fines non-compliant workplaces would have to pay by half to $500 to $2,500 from $1,000 to $5,000 from an earlier version of the bill.
The bill passed 45-3.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) was the only member from Queens and the only Democrat to vote against the bill.
“This gives even more power to the city to regulate and fine our small businesses,” he said. “If you don’t think the agencies are going to descend like a swarm of cicadas, then you’ve never run a small business.”
He said the law will force every business to keep records and file paperwork proving they are following the rules or be subject to fines. He also said he expects that in the future a more progressive Council would likely eliminate the 15-employee limit.
But Archila argued that other cities have enacted paid sick leave bills without negative effects on their economies and that the impact on business has often been positive because of a smaller job turnover.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last month he planned to veto the bill, saying that it would hurt small businesses and stifle job creation, but the Council is expected to have the two-thirds votes needed to override a veto.
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