34-year-old Felix Trinidad died last month after a battle with cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until it was too late, in part because he lacked the ability to take paid sick leave from the job he depended on.
As his health declined, Trinidad could not afford to take time off from his job at a Golden Farm supermarket in Kensington, NY, because his employers did not provide him with any paid sick leave — and by the time he eventually made it to a hospital emergency room, he was told he had advanced stomach cancer. As he underwent chemotherapy, he was unable to miss as much work as his doctors recommended to help facilitate his recovery.
Trinidad — who was also an activist in a local campaign for better working conditions and paid sick days at Golden Farm — was one of the more than one million New Yorkers who are forced to choose between their health and their job when they come down with an illness, underscoring the need for New York City’s proposed paid sick leave bill. The Paid Sick Days Act would set a minimum for paid sick days for the city’s employees, requiring businesses with 20 or more employees to provide at least nine days of annual paid sick leave, and those with 19 or fewer employees to provide at least five. Despite widespread support for the measure, however, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) is blocking it from coming up for a vote in city council.
To honor Trinidad’s memory and pressure Quinn to reconsider her stance on the Paid Sick Days Act, local clergy members and community activists held a prayer vigil on the steps of the City Hall today at noon. Activists hope Quinn will honor Trinidad’s memory by advancing legislation that could help others in his situation. “Félix didn’t take a day off when he needed chemo because he was afraid of being fired,” Lucas Sánchez of New York Communities for Changeexplained.
Progressive organizations [including Make the Road new York], including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have partnered on a petition pressuring Quinn to bring the proposed bill to a vote. Local activism has also sprung up in other cities where paid sick leave is under attack, such as Orange County, Florida, where residents are fighting to get paid sick day legislation on the November ballot despiteresistance from the big businesses that oppose it.
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