March 30, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—More than three years after Council Member Gale Brewer announced paid sick leave legislation on the steps of City Hall, Council Speaker Christine Quinn finally agreed to a compromise. While Quinn and advocates rejoiced over the compromise, not everyone was celebrating.
Just minutes after Quinn announced her support, Public Advocate and mayor hopeful Bill de Blasio said that over 300,000 New Yorkers would still have to go to work even if they’re sick or else be fired. (Read More/Watch Video)
“For three years everyday New Yorkers have been waiting for paid sick leave coverage. Parents who, when their children were sick got called away from work, they knew that just by going to take care of their kids they were going to lose a least a day’s pay,” said de Blasio.
He criticized Quinn for finally supporting the legislation out of political expediency and acceding to public pressure rather than genuine leadership on behalf of working New Yorkers.
“On this day, Speaker Quinn announced a deal. A deal that took years of pressure. If the Speaker had had her way there wouldn’t have been a paid sick leave bill. And the bill she finally agreed to leaves out 300,000 New Yorkers. And even for those covered, it’ll be a year or two before they benefit from this bill.”
But Quinn said that she always favored the bill’s intentions.
“I’ve always said that I supported the goal of paid sick leave. The question for me was never a question of if, only a question of when and how,” said Quinn.
Concurrently she was concerned about the bill’s effect on business.
“I’ve always said that it was vital that any paid sick bill protects small businesses and ensure that we move forward only in the right economic time. I’m proud to say that this legislation strikes the balance of those interests in an important and aggressive way.”
The Paid Sick Leave Act, Intro 97-A, originally called for mandating that employers with five or more employees grant five paid sick days. Employees working for big businesses such as fast food chains, and small businesses, could earn up to nine days and five days, respectively.
But the bill agreed to by the Speaker, labor and the business community mandates that employers with 20 or more employees grant paid sick time. That doesn’t go into effect until April 1, 2014. The mandate will extend to businesses with 15 or more employees on October 1, 2015. By 2015 over 1 million New Yorkers will finally be able to take a sick day with pay.
Perhaps the legislation’s biggest kicker is a trigger that will roll back paid sick time should economic conditions worsen before the bill takes effect next year or the year after.
According to Quinn, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Index of Coincident Economic Indicators will determine the trigger, which is a single summary statistic that tracks the economy. A rise in the index indicates an expansion of economic activity and a decline indicates a contraction.
Hector Figueroa, President of SEIU 32BJ, who led negotiations on behalf of labor with the Speaker’s office, said he believed the bill represents a victory for working New Yorkers because it’s a starting point for a national campaign.
“I see this as gaining momentum for the national campaign. The next city is Philadelphia where we’re having a fight. This is just the beginning. And it’s a strong foundation where we can take it to the next level.”
Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU, also believes the legislation is a victory for workers.
“This is absolutely a victory for working people in New York and around the country. One million people are going to be able to get paid sick leave that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten it. That’s an enormous victory for people.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that the legislation, although compromised, was bad economic policy for the city. As he promised he’d do if the bill reached his desk, “I will veto it.”