Fears of job loss are unfounded.
After being bottled up for more than three years, a bill that would allow hundreds of thousands of New York City workers to receive paid sick days will have a hearing this morning.
Workers, advocates [including Make the Road New York], community members and union leaders will testify and urge the Committee on Civil Service and Labor to approve the bill and, in turn, ask Council Speaker Christine Quinn to allow the full Council to vote on the legislation — sooner, rather than later
The bill is reasonable and fair to workers — and to small businesses — and would benefit more than 1 million workers in New York City, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The argument that paid sick days would hurt businesses just doesn’t hold water. Research shows that businesses that give their workers paid sick days have lower turnover and higher productivity.
An Economic Policy Institute study on the effects of the paid sick days law in San Francisco found that fears that the law would hurt job growth were never realized. In fact, after the law took effect on Feb. 5, 2007, employment in San Francisco grew twice as fast as in neighboring counties that had no sick leave policy.
That’s not surprising to me: It means something to workers when their employers treat them with basic respect and dignity.
A recent study by the Community Service Society found that 43% of all New York City residents who work lack access to paid sick days.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research says a paid sick days law would result in 48,000 fewer emergency room visits. That means city health care costs could drop by more than $70 million a year if New Yorkers without paid sick days were allowed to take time off when ill — or when a family member is seriously sick.
And then there is the human toll. One of our members, a building superintendent who has lived on the lower East Side all his life, called into a Latino telephone town hall meeting the other night to voice his support for paid sick days. He told a deeply emotional story about how his mother — like many Latino single women — had to struggle to support him and his brother on a low wage and could not afford to take a day off no matter how sick she was.
Nowhere is this issue felt more acutely than in the Latino community. The Community Service Society report found that there some 450,000 Latino workers — almost 47% — do not get a single day of sick leave on their jobs, and that Latinos are the racial and ethnic group least likely to have access to paid time off when illness strikes.
One big reason for this is that Latinos are more likely to be low-wage workers — often making minimum wage and without meaningful benefits. Another contributing factor is that Latinos are more likely to be immigrants than other ethnic groups.
This report clearly demonstrates how the lack of paid sick days disproportionately affects Latino workers. It is outrageous that almost half of all Latino workers in the city are unable to take a paid day off when they are sick.
Workers all across the city — not just Latinos — have been forced to go to work when they or a family member is extremely ill. Paid sick days is a worker issue, a women’s issue, a family issue and a union issue.
All of us have something at stake here. We cannot allow this to go on. We need a paid sick days law in New York right now.
Figueroa is president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union.
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