Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

NYT: “American workers should have paid sick leave, and New York City could set a standard for the rest of the nation.”

36 of 50 New York City Council members currently support a proposed law to provide sick leave for 1.2 million city workers. However, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, perhaps pandering to the city’s business interests before her 2013 mayoral campaign, refuses to bring the bill to the floor.

In 145 countries, national laws require employers to provide paid sick days. America is not among those as nearly 40 million American workers have no paid sick days at all. This leads to situations in which workers are risking their health and that of their co-workers by coming to work ill, finding themselves in financial hardship due to illness, or worse — being fired.

The New York Times recently ran an editorial calling for Quinn to bring the bill before council.

She (Quinn) argues that the timing is bad given the weak economy and that the benefit could increase compensation costs for businesses by an average of 1.5 percent, which in her view would hurt smaller companies to the point of driving them out of business or out of the city. Some business leaders say that companies will cut jobs if even a few days of sick leave are required.

Little evidence to support such fears has been seen in San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Connecticut, which require many businesses to provide the benefit. There are also economic benefits — lower turnover, higher productivity and morale, and reduced job loss for workers. But Ms. Quinn, who says she supports paid sick days in principle, does not want to consider a citywide sick-leave law until the economy is stronger.

The current council proposal would require firms with 5 to 19 employees to provide workers five paid sick days a year, which could also be used to care for sick family members. Businesses with 20 or more employees would have to provide nine days a year of any type of paid leave. The proposal would not cover independent contractors, interns or most union workers. There would be a one-year grace period for new businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

In Connecticut, where a similar yet less expansive law was implemented last year, there were no small business failures due to the new policy. In fact, the state gained jobs. It is conceivable that throughout the life of a worker sick leave could be the safety net that saves them from job displacement or financial hardship. Working while sick also creates safety issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that workers who could take sick leave instead of working while unwell were less likely to be hurt on the job.

NYT’s editorial calls for both passage of the law and for New York to be the standard-bearer for the nation.

American workers should have paid sick leave, and New York City could set a standard for the rest of the nation. Workers in the city deserve a sensible and humane sick-leave benefit now.


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