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Queens Chronicle

Broader sick leave bill before Council

Backed by mayor, new version drops last year’s Quinn-led compromises

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:29 am, Thu Jan 30, 2014.

Mayor de Blasio and the City Council plan to toss aside the compromise sick leave mandate that was passed last year and enact a new measure that will protect half a million more workers and cover all but the smallest of businesses.

Like the law passed last year over then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s veto, the new measure, announced in a press release from the Mayor’s Office, would mandate that businesses provide workers with at least five days of paid sick leave a year. But it would make several changes to the compromise measure, which was passed after former Speaker Christine Quinn led efforts to make it more palatable to the business community.

Instead of applying only to companies with 15 or more employees, the new proposal would impact those with five or more. And instead of being phased in over time, with larger firms affected first and smaller ones a year and a half later, as originally planned, all businesses subject to the law would fall under the mandate starting April 1.

Exemptions for the manufacturing sector that were in the original legislation also would be removed.

People would be allowed to take paid time off to care for grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. The original bill only allowed paid leave for workers to assist spouses, children and parents, as well as themselves.

The mandate would no longer be contingent on the economy’s performance. The original version had a clause that would put it on hold if the economy slipped, as measured by the Federal Reserve.

Together, the bill’s proponents said, the new measures would ensure paid sick leave for about 500,000 more workers than the version that was already enacted.

“This is going to be one city, where everyone has a shot and rises together,” de Blasio said in a statement announcing the new plan. “What we are putting forward today will fundamentally improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers — especially families struggling just to get by. Beginning this year, getting sick will no longer mean losing a day’s pay, or potentially a job, in the city of New York. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Members and the vast coalition that has helped bring us to this moment.”

Among the supporters quoted in the press release were Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer —who had written the original version of the law before Quinn got the compromise measure drawn up — and two members of Congress whose districts include parts of Queens, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens).

The release also included a statement from a car wash worker in Queens, Leonardo Hernando, who said that in the nine years he has lived in the United States, he has never had a job that provided paid sick leave, and could not afford to take days off when he was ill because he has four children. Hernando thanked the mayor and City Council for making paid sick leave a priority.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce put out a statement that neither supported nor opposed the bill. It said the chamber is committed to working with the city government to fairly address the needs of workers while balancing their rights with the needs of small businesses.

The chamber said it hopes to have input on the legislation, as well as other issues such as regulations and fines that impact businesses.

The bill was introduced on Wednesday and referred to the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, now chaired by new Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), according to the Speaker’s Office. The panel will hold a hearing on the measure, the office said.

Asked twice apiece whether any element of the new bill is negotiable, the Mayor’s Office and Speaker’s Office both declined to answer.

De Blasio put out another statement Wednesday, lauding the bill’s introduction and calling it a “critical piece of progressive reform.”

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