New York City Council members stood with business leaders and labor advocates Friday morning to support a deal to bring paid sick leave to workers in New York City.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has long sided with business interests in opposing the measure, announced the agreement Thursday night after facing increasing pressure from Council Members and political rivals.
“Throughout these negotiations I have always said that I was willing to listen and engage all sides,” Quinn said in a statement. “Because of deliberate, thoughtful, and at times hard-nosed negotiations, we now have a piece of legislation that balances the interests of workers, small business owners, and local mom and pop proprietors across this City.”
The proposed bill would require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days to their workers beginning April 1, 2014 and to businesses with 15 or more employees by October 1, 2015. Businesses of any size must provide unpaid sick leave to their employees beginning April 1, 2014.
Workers must be employed for at least four months to be eligible, including part-time workers. Seasonal workers and work-study students would not be eligible.
Advocacy groups like Make the Road New York (MRNY) called the deal a “historic agreement to give more than one million New Yorkers the right to take a paid day off work to care for themselves or a sick family member.”
Hundreds of low-wage workers came forward to support the bill after being fired for having to take a sick day, according to MRNY. “Some were even fired for going to the hospital after getting sick or injured while on the job.”
Carlo A. Scissura, President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement on Friday that the bill is “a balanced measure that makes good business sense and I commend Speaker Quinn and the entire City Council for negotiating a good compromise.
“This legislation in no way impacts small businesses — such as mom-and-pop stores with less than 20 employees — that could not otherwise afford to compensate their employees with sick pay,” Scissura said. “Another victory is that we fought to move enforcement from the Department of Health to Consumer Affairs.”
Also noteworthy, Scissura said, is that fines are significantly less than originally planned — from $1,000 and $5,000 reduced to $500 and $2,500 — and manufacturing is excluded from the bill as well. He called the bill “a business-friendly, sound approach to an important policy.”
Supporters of the bill “overcame fierce objections from New York’s business-minded mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, and his allies in the corporate world,” according to the New York Times.
New York City is now the largest city in the U.S. to enact paid sick days legislation – but the city’s proposed bill is watered down in comparison to sick leave practices in cities such as Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, which cover either all companies or those with five or more workers.
Still, Councilmember Brewer, who has worked tirelessly for four years to get a paid sick leave bill passed, said in a statement she was “honored” to be part of a City Council that addressed the issue.
“One million New Yorkers will now have the fundamental right to take a paid day off when they or a family member is ill, and no worker will be fired if they must stay home,” she said. “Although some in the business community opposed the concept of legislating [paid sick leave], we agree it is a false economy to send sick kids into school and sick workers into the workplace.”
New York Magazine’s “Grub Street” blog, which covers the food industry, said one side effect of the bill would be a drastic reduction in the spread of food-borne illness.
“Sidelining sick waiters and line cooks by paying them to stay home would simply reduce the presence of contagious agents, specifically in the places where they are most likely to spread, which would in turn reduce the overall number of sick workers throughout the work force,” wrote Hugh Merwin for Grub Street.
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