High praise to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for showing the courage to kill a bill that would have saddled businesses with a mandate to provide prescribed paid sick days to all employees.
The legislation threatened small businesses across the five boroughs with potentially make-or-break costs – always a bad idea, and especially horrendous at a time of economic distress.
Quinn nailed the necessity of removing the proposal from consideration, saying:
"The reality is that nearly one in every 10 New Yorkers remains unemployed. The reality is that more than 50,000 small businesses are already forced to close their doors every year. And the reality is that passing this bill would cost each of those business owners between $700 and $1,200 dollars per employee.
"That’s thousands of dollars a year, in a city where taxes and rents are high, at a time when consumer spending is low and credit is hard to come by. At a time like this, those thousands of dollars could be the breaking point for a small-business owner already stretched too thin."
Quinn’s action took particular guts considering that 35 Council members co-sponsored the bill after airily dismissing its raminifications as irrelevant or without fully considering them.
Many had signed on when, running for election in 2009, it made easy political sense to win the backing of the Working Families Party and other activist groups** that conceived of the legislation.
More recently, reality hit hard as small-business owners united in opposition, with overwhelming evidence that many could not afford what was, in essence, a $1,200 tax per employee.
The case was all the stronger because these same mom-and-pops are already struggling under the expense of a tax imposed this year to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
By best estimates, roughly 12% of the city’s private-sector workforce does not get paid sick leave. Many who go without are at the lower end of the economic scale.
While bill supporters were laudably motivated to help folks out, backers naively tried to extend the Council’s reach where it does not belong: into the commercial affairs of decent, hardworking employers who are struggling to make a go of it.
Quinn said she had sought a compromise that would spare the most vulnerable businesses from having to comply with the bill’s mandates. Correctly, she concluded nothing was workable.
She’s taking her hits. Donna Dolan, chairwoman of the N.Y.S. Paid Leave Coalition, said:
"The first possible woman mayor has just turned her back on a critical but modest lifeline that families around the city need – a stunning abandonment of working mothers and parents and the progressive women who have supported her from Day One."
If and when Quinn runs for mayor, her opponents may well pursue this line of attack. Let them. New Yorkers will appreciate her common sense.
**Including Make the Road New York (MRNY).