Council Speaker Christine Quinn scuttled an effort to require all employers in New York City to provide workers with paid sick leave, spurning her usual liberal allies to side with the business community.
"Providing sick leave to working New Yorkers is truly a noble goal, and supporters of this bill have the best intentions," said Ms. Quinn, who is a potential candidate for mayor in 2013. "But now is simply not the right time for a measure that threatens the survival of small businesses."
The bill has the support of more than two-thirds of Ms. Quinn’s council colleagues, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said it would be "disastrous" for the city.
The speaker promised to reevaluate the measure if the economy improves. But a person familiar with the matter said Ms. Quinn’s decision effectively kills the bill for the foreseeable future because she won’t schedule it for a vote.
The decision won kudos from the business community and scathing criticism from a coalition of liberal groups** that had championed the bill as a basic worker right.
Ms. Quinn insisted that she made her decision based on the merits, denying any consideration of the impact on a potential mayoral bid. Her potential Democratic mayoral rivals supported the bill. A supporter suggested her opposition is more likely to hurt her in a primary than help her.
"The first possible woman mayor has just turned her back on a critical but modest lifeline that families around the city needa stunning abandonment of working mothers and parents and the progressive women who have supported her from day one," said Donna Dolan, chairwoman of a coalition of paid-leave supporters.
Ms. Quinn said she understood "the emotion behind the statement."
"But I haven’t turned my back on anything," Ms. Quinn said. "What I’m standing here and saying is I can’t make decisions that I believe might put people out of work and put businesses under. I just can’t do that in the name of anything."
Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City, the city’s preeminent business group, said Ms. Quinn based her decision on the facts. "This demonstrates that the speaker is a mature and confident leader who cannot be pushed around," she said.
The bill would require businesses to provide employees up to nine days a year of sick leave. For business with fewer than 20 workers, the maximum paid sick leave would be five days.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the bill’s lead sponsor, said she believes Ms. Quinn prematurely gave up on finding a compromise. She vowed to keep fighting for it.
"This bill is not dead in my mind," Ms. Brewer said. "We’ll keep the pressure up."
**Including Make the Road New York (MRNY).