Sick day bill is about fairness

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s something most people probably take for granted: when you are sick, or your child is sick, you can take a day off of work without getting docked, or fearing that you’ll lose your job.

Unfortunately, that’s not true for hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers in the city. As a result, too many working families are forced to choose between their health and their livelihood. This situation is obviously bad for workers — it forces them to go to work or send their kids to school when they’re sick — and its also bad for anyone who eats out, sends their kids to school, or rides the subway.

That’s why I’m co-sponsoring legislation in the Council to insure that all New Yorkers get at least five paid sick days each year, to use on the rare-but-necessary occasions when they need to get well. Most workers already have this modest workplace right, but hundreds of thousands don’t. This bill will help working families, improve public health, and level the playing field.

But what about small businesses? I’ve heard from friends like Irene LoRe of Aunt Suzie’s restaurant on Fifth Avenue, and Carl Hum, the president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, who fear that this legislation would hurt small businesses in a very tough economy, when we need to focus on saving and creating jobs. Their opinion means a lot to me, since small businesses are where most jobs are created, and a big part of what makes our neighborhoods great.

I agree that we need to do more to support small businesses. Earlier this year, I co-sponsored the Small Business Owners Bill of Rights, which makes it easier for business to contact violations, and sets a standard for fair and consistent enforcement. I hope soon the city will give small businesses the chance to correct violations before fines are levied. And I’m working with local merchants on efforts to make sure more New Yorkers “buy local” — since the best thing we can do to help small businesses is to patronize them.

But after studying the evidence, I firmly believe that businesses small and large can afford to grant their workers a modest amount of paid sick leave. So many already do. And a recent Urban Institute survey of employers in San Francisco found that “they were able to implement the paid sick leave requirement [adopted in 2006] with minimal impacts to their business.”

If we can do the right thing for hundreds of thousands of workers, with minimal impacts to business, shouldn’t we?

Brad Lander is a councilman whose district covers Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park.

Updated 5:21 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Isn't this what Unions are for? now that they are so weak employers no longer fear them and have to provide benefits to keep them out. Barbers used to be closed on Mondays-because of Unions. Cleaners too because the cleaning plants were also closed on Mondays(because of the Unionized employees)...Its the wrong time for this because even small companies that can move outside the City will....
Just because San Fran could do this when the economy was better isn't good for NYC....
Oct. 14, 2010, 12:43 pm
David from Waterfront says:
Low-Wage Workers. This is a vague term. Are they employed getting a W2 or a 1099? Any salaried employee should be entitled to sick days of a reasonable amount. I do not feel the same about a 1099 worker as the nature of this worker is erratic. Small business should be encouraged to hire salaried workers and not 1099 employees, but the penalties are great. Sick days is a small issue to a bigger problem. Are you seeking fairness- try a $10/hr minimum wage for 1099 employees. I pay $20/hr, and if my employee is sick, she makes up the day when she is better.
Oct. 15, 2010, 9:46 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Most of the time companies abuse 1099 workers. In fact most are employees who the employee refuses to pay its share of social security taxes for or provide the other benefits(including workers comp) as required for its regular employees. There are some exceptions but for the most part if you direct the employees work and pay per hour they are employees not 1099 independent contractors....
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:29 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
BTW a 1099 employee is not an employee. 1099 people are supposed to be independent contractors....where they set the amount to be paid for a job and whether it takes one hour or a week you pay for the job. there are some exceptions for professionals(like lawyers) working per hour but they don't get paid $20 per hour. They have a real risk of profit and loss....
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:31 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
a hourly employee gets a regular tax form at the end of the year just like an salaried employee....
Oct. 15, 2010, 10:33 am
HistoryGuy from Carroll Gardens says:
History provides an interesting lesson. Though there was a recession in 1937-1938 (after a post-New Deal rebound) and unemployment grew from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938, New York State went ahead with enacting a minimum wage law (1937) and in 1938 FDR enacted the national Fair Labor Standards Act, which addressed child labor and minimum wage standards.

Guess what. It had no significant effect on unemployment, as employment rebounded in 1939 (even prior to WWII, which of course was the big economic stimulus...). Meanwhile, millions of people benefited and employment abuses were decreased.

So, the recent study in California is one bit of comparative evidence, but history also supports the premise that you can increase fairness for workers while not undermining business success. And as they say, history is the best predictor of the future.

Keep the long view. Sick days make sense and the fact that we are in a recession need not deter such progress.
Oct. 20, 2010, 12:33 pm

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