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City council overrides Bloomberg; paid sick leave passes

Courtenay Brown | 6/27/2013, 12:31 p.m. | Updated on 7/3/2013, 9:55 a.m.
Amongst several mandates announced today, the City Council voted and overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto on paid sick-leave this morning, ...
Bloomberg

Amongst several mandates announced today, the City Council voted and overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto on paid sick-leave this morning, forcing thousands of businesses to offer paid sick days and protecting workers across New York.

Effective in April 1 2014, companies with 20 or more employees are required to offer their workers at least five paid sick days a year. By October of 2015, businesses with 15 or more employees will have to offer paid sick leave as well. Businesses with fewer employees will have to allow five unpaid sick days, which would ensure that workers did not get fired for taking time off.

City Councilmember Gale Brewer, the lead sponsor of the bill, said that it made sense for the council to choose workers’ rights over the mayor’s will.

“With today’s Council override of the Mayor’s veto, this law codifies basic rights for approximately one million New Yorkers: the right to earned paid days off when you or a family member falls ill, and the right to keep your job if you must stay home,” Brewer said in a statement. “New York has traditionally been at the forefront of creating safe, fair working conditions for its people and I am proud for my colleagues to join me today in confirming this legacy.”

Donna Dolan, Chair of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, echoed similar sentiments.

“Together with our partners in City Council, this broad and diverse coalition has fought long and hard to win economic security for New York's working families for nearly four years,” said Dolan in a statement. “Today, we’re proud to watch paid sick days become the law of the land in New York City. This is truly a win-win for workers, employers, families, and the public health.”

The bill, first proposed in 2009 by Councilwoman and candidate for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, was vetoed in June by Mayor Bloomberg, who argued that it had the potential to damage small businesses and “stifle job creation,” according to a statement released earlier this year.

“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,” Bloomberg said. “The bill is short-sighted economic policy that will take our city in the wrong direction.”

Council Speaker and New York City Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn said the paid sick leave bill “is not only a great day for workers all over New York. It is also a great example of how we can bring people together through the legislative process.”

But Quinn had declined to bring paid sick leave to a vote for three years. However, pressure from council members and labor unions (and some would say a cynical attempt to win over potential voters) led to the bill being brought to the floor in May.

Advocates of the bill said that its passing would protect workers who refused to take time off when they are gravely ill, in fear of losing pay and their jobs.

“For far too long, the notion of taking a day off to care for a sick child or tend to personal health issues was financially unfeasible for many New Yorkers,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in a statement."In a time when so many workers are living paycheck to paycheck, the thought of losing a day's pay, or the threat of being fired, was enough to make them go to work regardless of whether or not they were well enough to be there. A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and today we commend the City Council for its decision to improve the quality of life for New York's workers."

New York is now the largest city to mandate paid sick leave, along with San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C.