Sanders, Dromm back small biz paid sick leave bill

Sanders, Dromm back small biz paid sick leave bill
City Councilman James Sanders (r.) talks to a parent about the sick leave bill. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

Two Queens city councilmen took to the streets Tuesday morning to get support from parents over a bill that would mandate small businesses to give their employees paid sick leave.

Councilmen James Sanders (D-Laurelton) and Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) joined members of the Paid Sick Leave Coalition outside schools in the borough to push for the passing of Intro 97-2010. The bill would mandate that businesses with 19 or fewer employees offer at least five paid sick days, while bigger companies would have to give a minimum of nine days.

Sanders, who spoke with parents outside PS 132 on 218th Street in Springfield Gardens, said the bill would be beneficial for New Yorkers not only economically but also in terms of health.

“With all of the diseases and strange things we bring, it’s wise that people get a day off when they are sick and get paid for it,” said Sanders, who chairs the Civil Service and Labor Committee, which has been working on the bill.

There is no federal or state law that requires companies to provide their employees with paid sick leave, but Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have laws that provide for this work amenity. An October 2009 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 1.2 million New Yorkers, roughly 42 percent of the population, do not get paid sick leave.

The bill is currently slated for a vote in the Council after Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) tabled it in the summer.

Dromm also promoted the bill at an event outside PS 69 on 37th Avenue in Corona.

“We need to pass this bill because this is a very real problem that affects all New Yorkers at a very basic level. Paid sick days are a healthy thing for New York City,” he said in a statement.

Dromm, Sanders and 34 other Council members and the public advocate support the bill, but not everyone thinks the proposal is a good idea for businesses. The Queens Chamber of Commerce, along with the chambers from the other boroughs, has publicly denounced the bill, saying that it would create a loss in costs for small businesses that are already struggling with the recession.

The city’s chambers said the businesses themselves should be able to set their own number of paid sick days arbitrarily.

“In concept we 100 percent agree with the concept bill…but the details there are a bunch of points which clearly make this bill poorly thought out and unfair,” said Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce said.

Friedman said eight borough Council members have accepted an invitation as of Tuesday to a special meeting with the chambers on Sept. 29 at City Hall restaurant to discuss the bill.

Sanders said he understands the critics’ complaints, but said the law would be a benefit to everyone.

“Society has to evolve. At one point, there was no eight-hour work day,” he said. “This is the next natural evolution.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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