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BY COUNCILMEMBER DONOVAN RICHARDS

More than one million New Yorkers will be granted the opportunity to take paid sick days off work without worrying about being retaliated against.

The recent compromise reached by Speaker Quinn, councilmembers, labor unions, business advocates and activists has ushered in a new wave of unprecedented worker protections. New York City has made history once again.

The new deal ensures that businesses with 20 or more workers will have to provide five paid sick days in 2014, and in 2015 businesses with 15 or more will have to follow suit. Both sides of the aisle have agreed that this common-sense measure will protect workers, while not stifling business.

Following Sandy, I remember countless individuals who came into my office who had to return to work, even while their homes were submerged under water. For this reason, the day after I was sworn into the Council, I immediately signed on to support the Paid Sick Leave Act.

While I did have concerns about certain parts of the bill, such as the Department of Health overseeing enforcement and the timeline it would go into effect for businesses in disaster zones, those fears were allayed. The current amendments made to the bill ensure that businesses in disaster zones will have a year to continue to rebuild; and now the Department of Consumer Affairs will oversee enforcement, which is a relief.

When I embarked on this journey to become an elected official, I promised my constituents I would fight to ensure that all New Yorkers would have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. As the son of teenage parents, I understand the hardships that everyday families have to endure to provide for their families. I remember days when my own parents went to work sick because it was a matter of putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. They shouldn’t have had to choose between their health and job.

Some will say that government shouldn’t prod into private business, but we all have an obligation to ensure that economic equality and justice is a reality in 2013.

During a time where poverty and homelessness are increasing across the city, we must do all we can to ensure that everyday people have a leg to stand on. This can’t be a tale of two cities, because our forefathers who came to this great city centuries ago built it for everyone.

 

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