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Queens Chronicle

Accord reached on new sick leave bill

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Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:30 am

Members of the City Council have agreed on a new version of a bill mandating that many city employers provide their workers with at least five paid days of sick leave, a measure that has been on the table for three years.

The bill, which Mayor Bloomberg says he will veto, will require companies with 20 or more workers to give them five days of paid leave beginning a year from now, and those with 15 or more to do so starting in October 2015.

Supporters applauded the measure, which had been altered from its original form following a recent hearing.

“Today mark’s a victory for working people across the city and across the nation,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Rockaway), a new lawmaker representing the 31st District in Southeast Queens. “The Paid Sick Leave Act will ensure millions of people have the opportunity to take a sick day off, without worrying if they will have a job when they return the next day. I applaud Speaker Quinn, Council Member Gale Brewer, and all of the stakeholders, who came together to make this day a reality.”

Brewer (D-Manhattan) was the author of the original bill, which had been co-sponsored by 37 of the Council’s 51 members, a veto-proof majority. But despite that support, Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), a leading candidate for mayor this year, had used her power as head of the Council to keep it from coming to a vote, citing the potential negative impact it could have on businesses.

Opponents of the bill say it will cost jobs because some employers, especially smaller ones, will not be able to afford the mandate. Proponents say it is only fair to require sick leave because those who are ill should not be forced to come to work, and that when they do they can spread contagions such as the flu.

“Throughout these negotiations I have always said that I was willing to listen and engage all sides,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. “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 mandate will not take effect if the economy slows, according to Quinn, though exactly how that will be measured was not made clear.

Among the strongest supporters of the bill are City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, both of whom are running against Quinn for the Democratic nomination for mayor, along with former Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Councilman Sal Albanese of Brooklyn. Liu, de Blasio and Thompson have all criticized Quinn for blocking the measure.

Quinn is widely seen as more sympathetic to big business than her major opponents, and closer to the mayor. But she and Bloomberg are on opposite sides of the sick leave bill. Though it was not immediately clear when the Council will vote on the measure, the mayor issued a statement last Friday saying he will veto it.

“While this compromise version of the bill is better than previous iterations, it will still hurt small businesses and stifle job creation,” Bloomberg said. “Supporters claim it will only take effect if the economy is healthy, but there is never a good time to make New York City less competitive. The bill is short-sighted economic policy that will take our city in the wrong direction, and I will veto it.”

Not all business groups oppose the measure, however. The Queens Chamber of Commerce is among those that support it.

“Speaker Quinn has shown, once again, why she is such a great leader,” Executive Director Jack Friedman said. “She has supported small businesses during very difficult economic times, and has listened to our concerns continually throughout the process. No one is ever going to get 100 percent of what they ask for, but in this case, Speaker Quinn was able to achieve a laudable goal while mitigating many of the financial hardships this bill could have cost small businesses. We applaud her efforts and support her decision to bring this matter to a close.”

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