Barely two weeks after the Democratic primary, several hundred Latino immigrant workers and students pressed City Council members new and old to pass paid sick days legislation in a mass demonstration across the Brooklyn Bridge.
"It is very important for us to be able to take a day off without risking their job or risking our income. That’s why we’re all here today," saidMake the Road New York Co-Executive Director Ana Maria Archila. "This is not only a problem for those who earn minimum wage, this is a problem for everyone."
The Paid Sick Time Act, one of nine bills Make the Road New York is advocating for this legislative session, would require businesses with fewer than 10 employees to provide five paid sick days a year while other employees at larger business would receive at least nine days per year.
So far, 38 council members have signed on to sponsor the bill, including Brooklyn Councilmembers Bill De Blasio (D-Cobble Hill), Matthieu Eugene (D-Flatbush), Letitia James (D-Fort Greene) and Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg). The march even attracted several Democratic nominees to the Council, including Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, who used the opportunity to meet Make the Road membersand state their support for the bill, if they have the opportunity to vote on it next year, "There are a million people who can get sick, who might get sick and have a right to get better," said Democratic Party and Working Families Party nominee Jumaane Williams (D-45th District). "We’re not asking, we’re demanding for sick leave."
Working Families Party Director Dan Cantor, who has been celebrating the victories of two WFP-backed citywide candidates, Bill De Blasio (fot public advocate) and John Liu (for comptroller), said that the bill encapsulates his party’s message and is an example of the "good jobs" portion of the party’s founding slogan.
"Good jobs have paid sick days in them and this legislation will give a boost to the national effort to establish sick days for all employees," said Cantor.
Several workers who lost their jobs because they were too sick to go to work shared their stories at the rally. Brooklyn resident Guillermo Barrera** said he was fired from his restaurant job on September 18 after telling his boss he felt too sick to work.
"When my wife arrived to pick me up, my boss began to yell and insult me and said that I shouldn’t come back because she was firing me because I didn’t take my job seriously enough," said Barrera. "Suddenly I found myself out of a job and without a way to support my family all because I had gotten sick."
Several small business owners, such as Marco Reinoso of North Brooklyn’s Superstar Deli (204 Irving Avenue), also testified in support of the bill. Reinoso said that passing sick day legislation is "good business sense" and will help his entire community.
"Healthy workers make productive workers and my business will be much stronger if my employees are able to take the time they need to recuperate from illness without worrying about the effect taking a day off will have on their income," said Reinoso.
The bill is veto-proof, but councilmembers and union leaders such as Donna Dolan, Chair of New York City Paid Sick Days Coalition and the Communication Workers of America, have been negotiating with Mayor Michael Bloomberg over the number of paid sick leave days for small businesses. Dolan is optimistic the bill will be passed intact.
"It is an outrage that workers are getting fired because they’re sick for two days and they’re losing their jobs. This is a public health emergency because we’re going to get hit with swine flu," said Dolan.
**Make the Road New York member