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New York City Council OK’s Paid Sick Leave for More Than 1 Million Workers

Illustration courtesy of Women Unemployed's Facebook page

New York City workers will receive, starting next year, five paid sick days a year to care for themselves or an ill family member under a measure the New York City Council passed (45-3) this afternoon. The vote culminates a four-year effort by a powerful coalition of workers, unions and community groups.

At a press conference before the historic vote, Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, said:

This vote marks a big step in the right direction toward providing paid sick time to workers in our city. I commend the many advocates who have fought so hard to improve the lives of workers and their families through this bill. As this legislation is voted upon, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting and improving the basic rights of all workers here in New York City.

The issue had been stalled in the City Council, but in late March the New York City Campaign for Paid Sick Days, a broad coalition of low-wage workers, women’s rights advocates, health care providers, small business owners, labor unions and community organizations, reached an agreement with Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn to bring the paid sick leave measure to a vote.

After the vote, MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said:

It’s been a long fight, but today the New York City Council heeded the call of New York families and passed a bill that would allow more than a million New Yorkers to earn paid time off to use when they are sick or to take care of a sick child, spouse or parent.

She challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “stand up to corporate lobbyists, listen to the people who elected him and sign this important bill.”

Bloomberg has said he will veto the legislation. But the bill passed with a veto-proof margin.  

The new paid sick leave bill requires firms with 20 or more workers to provide five paid sick days beginning in 2014 and, 18 months later, it would cover companies with 15 or more workers. About 1 million New York City workers currently have no paid sick leave. 

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million people in America work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick. No paid sick time also decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability. Paid time is especially important for low-wage workers who cannot afford basic necessities when they miss work because they don't have paid sick leave. 

In March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses.

Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., have implemented paid sick leave requirements, and campaigns or legislative initiatives are under way in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.

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