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Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Sick-pay momentum impacts business groups

The leader of a coalition opposing city-mandated paid sick leave insists that business opposition is not softening, even as some members of her group [including members of Make the Road New York] speak of compromising and advocates’ pressure to pass the measure mounts.

In a statement to Crain’s New York Business, the president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Ploeger, speaking on behalf of the five borough chambers of commerce, disputed that any compromise with proponents of the legislation was in the works. The statement came in the wake of recent positive comments by the heads of the Queens and Bronx chambers about proposed amendments to the bill.

“The city’s chambers recognize that council members are trying to find a way to amend the legislation so that it does not hurt small business,” Ms. Ploeger said. “But this should not be misinterpreted as a softening in our opposition to ANY [paid sick leave] legislation. We oppose any unfunded mandate that will put more financial burdens on the backs of the small businesses in what is already the highest-cost city in America.”

Ms. Ploeger also praised Council Speaker Christine Quinn for continuing to oppose the measure, despite a flurry of recent pressure from labor groups and prominent female New Yorkers such as Gloria Steinem. Thursday at City Hall, proponents delivered 50,000 petition signatures calling on Ms. Quinn to bring the paid sick leave bill to a vote. The bill has 37 council sponsors, enough to pass and overcome a mayoral veto.

In addition, the Community Service Society, which supports the measure, found in a poll that 83% of New Yorkers favor a bill mandating paid sick days, up nine percentage points from a year ago an indication that proponents’ campaign to build support is working. Democrats were more likely to support a mayoral candidate who backed paid sick leave by a margin of 10 to 1, the poll showed.

The poll sampled more than 1,400 New York City adults, about two-thirds of whom have moderate to high incomes. It was conducted by Lake Research Partners.

On Wednesday, Crain’s Insider reported that the president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Lenny Caro, proposed cutting a deal with proponents of the paid sick leave bill, who have been pushing the measure relentlessly in the City Council for several years. Though he opposes government intervention in business, Mr. Caro said it would be wise for business leaders to compromise with sick-leave supporters, using amendments proposed last week by Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick amendments as the framework.

“It’s been on the table for what, two or three years? And it keeps coming back,” Caro had said. “They’re going to get it through somehow, so we might as well get the best deal possible.”

When the New York Times reported the amendments last week, the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Jack Friedman, called them a “major step forward.” Hours later, Ms. Ploeger released a statement on behalf of the five chambers saying the bill remained “onerous.”

The Partnership for New York City, which also opposes the legislation, recently retained Stu Loeser, the former press secretary to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to do outreach to small business owners. Paid sick leave is reportedly expected to be part of Mr. Loeser’s portfolio, Capital New York has reported.

Mr. Garodnick’s proposed amendments would require business with more than 20 employees to provide five annual paid sick days instead of nine. They would also exclude seasonal workers, codify the employee practice of shift swapping and limit the amount of time workers would have to file a sick leave-related grievance to 18 months.

While business leaders’ response to the proposed amendments has been somewhat disjointed, supporters have apparently been acting in concert.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a likely top opponent of Quinn in the 2013 mayoral race, has been sharply criticizing the speaker for not bringing the bill to a vote. Mr. Garodnick, a candidate for city comptroller, and Mr. de Blasio are both represented by the left-leaning public relations firm Berlin Rosen, which has also been retained to push the sick-leave bill.

But a consultant at the firm told Crain’s that the efforts over the past week had not been coordinated.

Correction: The Lake Research Partners poll sampled more than 1,400 New York City adults, about two-thirds of whom have moderate to high incomes. This fact was misstated in an earlier version of this article, originally published Oct. 4, 2012.

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