Guillermo Barrera** plans to tell hundreds at a
downtown rally on Thursday how he lost his job at a Brooklyn restaurant when he told his boss he
needed to go to the hospital.
"She told me I was fired and she never wanted to see me again and I should
never return," Barrera, 36, told the Daily News.
Barrera, 36, who worked as a cook at Tina’s Place on Flushing Ave. in Bushwick, will be marching across the Brooklyn Bridge today to champion city legislation
mandating employers provide workers with paid sick leave.
"It’s terrible," said Barrera, a father of two who is now unemployed.
"Employees should not be treated this way."
The legislation, filed by Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) and
co-sponsored by 37 of her colleagues, does not yet have the key support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn or Mayor Bloomberg.
Jamie McShane, a Quinn spokesman, said there will
be hearings on the bill this fall. He said Quinn is undecided but "supports the
goals of the legislation."
"The mayor supports paid sick leave," said Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser. "Like a lot of people, he has concerns
about how the smallest of small businesses should be treated under the bill,
which we’re discussing with the Council."
Brewer said she’s hopeful the bill, which is supported by the Working Families Party, will win approval this
She said concerns about the swine flu prompted her to submit the legislation.
"It’s a family issue," she said. "It’s a public health issue."
Barrera’s former boss, Athina Skermo, disputed Barrera’s account of how he
lost his job.
"I didn’t know that he was going to the hospital," she said. "He just left me
Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the
Road New York, the advocacy group that is sponsoring the march and rally, said
it plans to sue Barrera’s former employer.
Barrera is one of roughly 850,000 workers citywide who does not have paid
"There is a high cost of not having paid sick days, and that cost is borne by
hundreds of thousands of workers like Guillermo who are forced to make a
fundamentally unfair choice between their health and their ability to pay rent
or feed their families," Friedman said.
**Make the Road New York member