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

Workers Rally For Paid Sick Days

On July 30, a crowd gathered in front of Taqueria El Idolo at 91-07 Corona Ave., Elmhurst, to rally in demand for a paid sick days law.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Elmhurst) joined the protest, which was comprised of small business owners, the Queens Working Families Party and members of the immigrant organization, Make the Road New York (MRNY).

As the crowd chanted, in the words of Cesar Chavez, “Si, Se Puede,” meaning “Yes, We Can,” former employee Celina Alvarez [member of Make the Road New York] shared her experience of being fired from the restaurant after taking a brief medical leave of absence.

“I was a loyal and dedicated employee at Taqueria El Idolo, when a serious heart problem forced me into the hospital,” Alvarez said. “When I recovered enough to go back to work, I found out there was no job for me to return to. The hospital stay saved my life, but cost my job.”

During Alvarez’s testimony, she noted that many workers in New York are faced with the same problem everyday and asked the City Council to take action on their behalf. According to MRNY, Alvarez currently has a wage and hour lawsuit against the restaurant pending with the Dept. of Labor.

“There are a million New Yorkers who do not have paid sick days,” said Ferreras. “If someone is sick, especially in the restaurant industry, and they go to work, they are serving New Yorkers. This is a health concern.”

The Paid Sick Time Act was first introduced in the City Council in August 2009 and has since gained the support of 37 co-sponsors. While business lobbyists voiced strong concerns against the act, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) decided not to support the bill and it was never brought to the floor for a vote.

If passed, the legislation would require businesses with more than 20 employees to provide nine paid sick days. Businesses with five to 20 employees would be required to offer five paid sick days, and small businesses would only need to provide five unpaid, job-protected sick days.

“For workers without paid sick days, losing pay or even a job can be as easy as catching a flu,” said Jose Schiffino, spokesman for the Queens Working Families Party. “It’s time for Speaker Quinn and the Council to pass the paid sick days bill.”

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