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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Chronicle
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Sick leave bill pressed by workers’ groups, citing flu

Labor rights activists across the borough are pressing lawmakers for passage of the long-delayed sick leave bill, after a local deli worker who was sick with the flu was fired for taking a day off work to visit his doctor.

Members of Make the Road New York and the NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign rallied outside the former employer of Elmhurst resident Emilio Palaguachi on Jan. 31 to urge City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to finally bring the Paid Sick Time Act to a vote.

Palaguachi, who helped organize the demonstration, also spoke during a rally at City Hall on Jan. 18, urging a vote on the bill, which has languished for more than two years.

“No one knows when the bill will pass. It can be in a few days or in a few years,” Palaguachi said. “We’re trying, and I know it’s not easy, but we are continuing to try to get people to pass the bill.”

The proposed bill is supported by the Working Families Party, the state Paid Family Leave Coalition, Make the Road and A Better Balance, a family legal center.

Although 37 of the City Council’s 51 members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, Quinn said in Oct. 2010 that she would not allow an immediate vote on the Paid Sick Time Act but would review her decision every two months, according to A Better Balance. Since then, the bill has not been voted on.

Several community leaders stress the importance of Quinn allowing a vote on the bill amidst an ongoing flu season and city mayoral elections months away.

Bill Lipton, founder of the Working Families Party, said that delaying the bill and preventing workers from using paid sick days is unfair and unhealthy.

“This year’s virulent flu should make the issue even clearer,” Lipton said. “It’s time for Speaker Quinn to allow a vote on paid sick days.”

If passed, the legislation would mandate that small businesses provide their employees with five paid sick days a year and larger businesses nine paid sick days. The legislation would also allow workers to use their paid sick days to take care of members of their immediate family.

However, Quinn and several small business owners who are against the passing of the proposed legislation believe the bill would negatively affect job growth and the city’s economy if it is approved.

The bill “will cost us jobs and cost us small businesses and their future in these tough economic times,” Quinn said in a statement emailed to the Chronicle last year. “That said, in our present economic environment, small businesses are hanging on by a thread in many cases.”

Quinn’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the activists’ continuing push. Several attempts were made to contact Superior Deli, Palaguachi’s former employer, but no one answered the phone.

Mayor Bloomberg, a vocal opponent of the bill, said in Oct. 2010 that the government should not get involved with the internal affairs of small businesses and that he would veto the bill if it passed.

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