The campaign to give New York workers the right to paid sick days got a big boost this week when two important voices publicly endorsed the idea for the first time.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), the ranking member on the Congressional Small Business Committee, and City Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick), head of the Council’s Committee on Small Business, declared their support for a paid sick days bill during a Sunday rally on the steps of City Hall.
Both have been strong advocates for small businesses and their support for a paid sick days bill increases pressure on Council Speaker Christine Quinn to do the same.
Despite having enough votes to pass Speaker Quinn, who has mayoral aspirations, has not allowed the bill, introduced by Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), to be voted on.
“. . . in the economic environment we are in, small businesses are hanging on by a thread in many cases. And I think, although this goal is laudable, it’s not one that I can support,” Quinn said in an email last month. Her position has not changed.
But many business owners disagree.
“I treat my employees right by providing paid sick days. My employees trust and respect me for it. The benefit of having loyal and hardworking employees I can rely on far outweighs the cost of a few paid sick days,” said Esmeralda Valencia, owner of Esmeralda’s Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
“We’re standing in support of paid sick days with local businesses like Esmeralda’s that do the right thing for their workers and for the economy,” Velázquez said. “If Esmeralda’s can do right by their workers, McDonalds and Target should, as well.”
Amalia Cisneros, who owns Centro Naturista Amalia, in Elmhurst, Queens, believes workers should not be penalized by depriving them of wages or, worse, by being fired, when they get sick.
“Paid sick days should be a right not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes business sense,” she said. “Customers don’t want to be taken care of by sick people.”
Support for the bill has grown among small business owners after the announcement of several amendments crafted in consultation with them, said Javier Valdés, deputy director of of Make the Road New York and a member of NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign, the group that organized the City Hall rally.
“We have been talking to small business owners to make sure the bill will not harm anybody,” Valdés said. “Councilwoman Reyna is comfortable with it now”.
Some of the amendments include:
– A one-year grace period for new businesses before they are required to provide paid sick days.
– An exemption for “mom and pop” shops with five or fewer employees that only requires them to provide unpaid leave that protects the jobs of employees.
– Reduced bookkeeping requirements and the creation of new on-line resources for business owners.
“With these amendments, everyone can get behind this paid sick days bill. New York City’s small business owners know that it’s not only our families and communities that suffer when workers don’t have paid sick days, our businesses and our economy suffer as well,” Reyna said. “I look forward to continuing this conversation as a voice for small businesses across the city. It’s time to pass the paid sick days bill.”
With more and more business owners in favor of paid sick days, now it is up to Quinn to do the right thing for working New Yorkers.
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