Enough is enough.
That’s how an increasing number of people feel about Council Speaker Christine Quinn standing in the way of granting paid sick days to 1 million New York workers, nearly half of them Latinos, for whom getting sick is an unaffordable luxury.
Yes, we know, Quinn wants to be New York’s next mayor and is trying to keep business interests happy. We understand. After all, many of them are important donors to her campaign.
Yet for her to ignore not only that a majority of her fellow Council members favor the bill, but also that 83% of New Yorkers would like to see it approved, is bound to be a costly political mistake.
With the release last Monday of “Latino New Yorkers Can’t Afford to Get Sick,” a report by the Community Service Society showing that the Hispanics bear a disproportionate brunt of the city’s failure to act, the speaker has even fewer excuses for her refusal to allow a vote on the bill.
Latino leaders, workers and business owners who support the bill, held a press conference at City Hall on Monday where the report was released.
They called on Quinn to allow a vote on the act that has been languishing in the Council for almost three years. The Council is set to hold a hearing on the bill Friday .
“I have two employees and I give them paid time to recover because it is the right thing to do,” said Edgar Andrade [member of Make the Road New York], who owns Wyckoff Hardware and 99c in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “Besides, I have painful personal experiences with this issue. My mother was fired a few years ago from her job because she became sick. Also, a sick worker in contact with the public is a health risk and cannot be as useful to the business.”
Over 450,000 Latino workers in the city are not as lucky as Andrade’s employees.
They are unable to take even one paid day off when they or a family member becomes ill, the report found.
“As a family doctor in the Bronx, I see patients every week who need paid sick days,” said Dr. Bill Jordan, who was interviewed for the report. “Half of my patients are Spanish-speaking.”
Rafael Navor [member of Make the Road New York], 41, a Brooklyn resident, could have been one of Jordan’s patients. He had been working at a construction company for seven months when he contracted the flu and missed five days of work. He asked his doctor for a letter but to no avail: when he went back to work his employer paid him only for three days. When he asked to be paid for the other two, he was fired.
“I am working at another company now,” Navor said, “but if I get sick I won’t say anything, because I don’t want the same thing to happen again. I have a one-year-old daughter and I need to work.”
Cases like Navor’s are far too common among low-wage Latino workers as the report shows: l 47% of Latino workers lack paid sick days, the highest share of any racial or ethnic group. Latinos are overrepresented in low-wage occupations such as food services, non-union construction, and retail trade that provide few, if any benefits, l Due to their lack of paid sick days, Latinos are the most likely group to go to work ill, send sick children to school, and visit emergency rooms because they can’t see a doctor during normal business hours.
An unconscionable situation that, Quinn’s political ambitions notwithstanding, needs to be addressed ASAP.
Enough is enough.