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Politicians, activists fight for paid sick leave

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/1/2012, 4:23 p.m.

The fight for paid sick leave in the workplace continued last week as several elected officials, community activists and advocacy groups voiced their support for a law in New York state that would make paid sick leave mandatory.

"As a leading reproductive health care provider in New York City, we know all too well the realities faced by uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers," said Mel Gagarin, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of New York City. "Our doors are open to everyone regardless of their immigration status, gender or ability to pay. We see our clients make difficult decisions about how to best manage resources to care for themselves and their families every single day. The current paid sick leave legislation provides a critical opportunity to provide some of the hardest-working New Yorkers with a sense of security during these times of economic uncertainty. It will mean so much to so many."

Planned Parenthood of New York City joined organizations like 32BJ, New York Communities for Change and NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign in urging the New York City Council to bring amended Intro 97-A to a vote. The amended bill would provide paid sick time earned by employees.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was among the elected officials who showed his support for the amended law.

"We have serious health issues in our borough, and in this City, that must be addressed. Yet far too many workers, particularly low-wage workers in our communities, have to sacrifice their paycheck or sacrifice their health, a choice no one should be forced to make," Diaz said in a statement. "It is a basic right of the people of the Bronx and this City to be able to take a sick day when they need to. This is simply a matter of fairness. It is time for Intro 97 to become law, and I look forward to assisting my colleagues in the City Council in their efforts on behalf of this 'Paid Sick Leave' legislation."

32BJ President Hector Figueroa piggybacked on Diaz's sentiments.

"This bill will ensure that working people in our city do not have to go to work sick out of fear of losing pay or even their jobs," said Figueroa. "It will also safeguard public health by reducing the spread of illness. Now is the time for the City Council to vote on this important legislation."

Council Member Gale Brewer, a sponsor of the Paid Sick Time Act, focused on the costs to New Yorkers' health that could be helped with the implementation of this law.

"The health of all New Yorkers is at risk when workers with contagious illnesses ride the subway, prepare and serve food, and take care of children and seniors," Brewer. "Lack of paid sick time can also contribute to the worsening of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes--which have reached epidemic levels in some of our neighborhoods--as New Yorkers without time off may be unable to seek early intervention for themselves and their children when complications arise."