By Steve Mosco
A bad case of the sniffles will no longer force millions workers in the city to lose earnings after a deal was struck this week to make small businesses provide paid sick days off for employees.
The deal, which would go into effect April 2014, requires companies with at least 20 employees to give full-time workers five compensated sick days a year. The mandate will extend to businesses with 15 or more employees in October 2015. It was a compromise worked out by members of the City Council, business owners and union leaders.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said under the agreement, all New Yorkers will receive full protections that will allow them to take time to care for themselves and their families when ill, without fear or threat of losing their job.
“We have a good, strong and sensible piece of legislation that recognizes the needs of everyday New Yorkers and the realities that our struggling small businesses face,” Quinn said. “Throughout these negotiations I have always said that I was willing to listen and engage all sides. Because of deliberate, thoughtful, and at times hard-nosed negotiations, we now have a piece of legislation that balances the interests of workers, small business owners, and local mom and pop proprietors across this City.”
The bill also includes vital protections for the city’s economy, including a reverse trigger that will ensure the mandate is only enacted if the economy can sustain it. If the economy unexpectedly worsens, the bill will be delayed from taking effect until conditions improve.
Advocates of paid sick leave have said that no worker should be at risk of losing a job because of illness, and that is why they pushed Quinn to strike a deal.
“After four long years of fighting for paid sick days for New York, A Better Balance is proud to have helped ensure that no worker needs to risk their job or economic security when they or their child is sick,” said Sherry Leiwant, co-founder and co-president of the workers’ rights advocacy group.
Quinn, a candidate to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faced criticism for her opposition to paid sick leave, in particular from other mayoral candidates.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another candidate for mayor, said the deal took too long to come together and it still leaves out many working New Yorkers.
“I commend the city Paid Sick Days Coalition for getting something done, despite Speaker Quinn’s long-standing resistance to providing working families this critical measure of economic security,” said de Blasio. “However, the final outcome leaves out over 300,000 New Yorkers and took far too long. No one should ever have to sacrifice pay just because they get sick. I intend to keep fighting for these New Yorkers left behind.”
Meanwhile, Queens elected officials were happy to celebrate what they believe is a victory for city workers.
“Today is a historic moment for the city of New York,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “With the passage of this milestone legislation our city’s working families will no longer have to fear the loss of jobs for taking a sick day or caring for a loved one who is ill.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.