A few days ago, the issue of earned sick days for workers was in the news. Its was noted that, for example, more than a million residents of New York who do not have paid sick days and that suffering an illness means losing out on a pay check at best and a job at worst. Hearing after hearing had been held; New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had scheduled a public hearing for a paid sick time bill but it was unfortunate that the hearing came as the result of intense pressure from activist groups and the service workers themselves. Doing the right thing — supporting the rights of workers — often comes as the result of public pressure, and this time it worked.
A decision has been reached. Thousands of companies across New York will now have to pay sick leave to formerly unprotected workers. Quinn has, in the past, sided with employers (‘job creators’) who presented the age-old arguments that hurting their bottom line would mean that they would hire fewer workers, even though it has repeatedly been proven that a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Costs to businesses providing paid sick leave are much lower than the healthcare, training, and other costs that increases when the labour force is sick.
The new bill proposed, which will be enforced by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, doesn’t go far enough for some: it requires that businesses with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days to their workers commencing on April 1, 2014 while businesses with more than 15 employees must enact the change by October 1, 2015. Additionally, all employees must be employed for at least four months to be considered eligible for participation in the new paid sick leave rules, and that includes part-time workers but excludes the large pool of seasonal workers and work study students.
Some among the employers are saying Ms. Quinn ‘folded’ when she said in a statement that, “Throughout these negotiations I have always said that I was willing to listen and engage all sides.” Further, she said, “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.”
She didn’t ‘fold’…she simply looked at the realities. She has high political aspirations. She wants to be the next mayor of American’s largest city. And she remembered that workers vote too.