Paid Sick Days for NYC Workers! (But Philly Workers Have to Wait)

6221646727_a6b0ab38cbThousands of companies in New York City will now be required to provide paid sick days for employees, thanks to a legislative compromise cobbled together between labor unions and the city council. The deal was partially made possible from a caving-in of City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, who was the leading opponent of paid sick leave and blocked action on the issue for several years, fearing it would hurt the city’s economy.

Beginning in April 2014, businesses in New York City with 20 or more employees will have to give five paid sick days to their workers, and businesses with fewer than 20 workers will be required to offer unpaid sick leave. Then, in October 2015, this requirement will be expanded to businesses with 15 or more workers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to veto the measure, but it has enough support from the city council to override it.

Advocates say the new measure will allow more of NYC’s workers to stay home when they’re ill without fear of losing a day’s pay or their job. Under the new rule, it will be illegal for a company to fire workers for missing work due to sickness. The legislation will give paid sick leave to approximately one million New Yorkers who don’t yet have that benefit.

New York City will now join Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Francisco, Long Beach, Calif., Washington, D.C. and the state of Connecticut on the list of progressive places that are guaranteeing more rights to their workers; however, NYC’s measure is a lot less sweeping than others which require companies with just five or more workers to provide sick leave.

Council member Quinn, a leading candidate in the upcoming mayoral race, refused to even bring up the issue for a vote at first, but a public outcry from activists—including Gloria Steinem who threatened to withdraw her endorsement of Quinn—forced her to reconsider.

Bill Lipton, a director from the Working Families Party, told The New York Times:

This is a sweet victory. It provides economic security for New Yorkers and a shot in the arm for the paid sick days movement across the country.

Less than 100 miles away in Philadelphia, however, Mayor Michael Nutter recently vetoed a bill for the second time that would allow paid sick leave. In his veto letter he said,

The burden businesses would face in meeting the requirements of this bill would deter job creation and decrease the competitiveness of our city at a time when we can ill afford it.

We still have our work cut it for us.

Photo of New York City courtesy of Andos_pics via Creative Commons 2.0.



Associate editor of Ms. magazine