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Council set to approve paid sick days bill

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/4/2013, 5:22 p.m.

The cynic would say that this is an election year ploy, but when something is done to benefit working-class New Yorkers, it's hard to criticize.

A compromise was reached in the New York City Council last week to require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide paid sick days. Council Speaker and New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn had rejected paid sick leave from coming to a vote for three years, despite the majority of the City Council supporting it.

The original version of the paid sick leave bill would require paid sick time to be granted to employees at any business that had at least five employees. The bill also contains what's called a "reverse trigger." That means that the legislation can be undone if the economic indicators for the city dip below where they were in January of 2012.

During a news conference at City Hall, Quinn denied that this agreement and her approval of an NYPD inspector general are part of a plan to go left just in time for the Democratic mayoral primary.

Meanwhile, David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society, felt that the workers, unions and activists who came out in support of paid sick leave should receive a significant share of the credit.

"It took us more than three long years, but today the city is one step closer to ensuring that hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers, particularly low-wage workers, will now be entitled to paid sick days, and that no worker will be fired for being out sick a few days," said Jones in a statement. "Our work showed that the benefits of this legislation substantially outweighed the costs. Fewer workers going to work sick will make New York City a healthier place, and low-income wage workers receiving job protection and wages they deserve will help those struggling to get by keep their heads above water and boost our local economy.

"Moreover, the oft-stated criticism that paid sick days would somehow kill jobs or hurt businesses was not supported by economic evidence or empirical data from cities with laws on the books," concluded Jones.

Quinn found herself in a politically untenable position: trapped between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his business allies who oppose the bill and the workers, unions and labor activists who support it. Bloomberg released a statement expressing that as long as he's mayor, the bill won't make it past him.

"While this compromise version of the bill is better than previous iterations, it will still hurt small businesses and stifle job creation," said Bloomberg. "Supporters claim it will only take effect if the economy is healthy, but there is never a good time to make New York City less competitive. The bill is short-sighted economic policy that will take our city in the wrong direction, and I will veto it."

However, Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, stated in a letter to fellow members, that small businesses would not be hurt by paid sick leave.

"This legislation in no way impacts small businesses--such as mom-and-pop stores with less than 20 employees--that could not otherwise afford to compensate their employees with sick pay," said Scissura. "In addition, we agree that the Department of Consumer Affairs enforce the bill and that it is to be phased in over time. Another victory is that we fought to move enforcement from the Department of Health to Consumer Affairs."

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was straighter to the point in his support for the new compromise.

"No New Yorker should have to choose between their job and caring for a sick child or a family member," Diaz said.