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Council Reignites Paid Sick Leave Debate

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The City Council introduced a bill Tuesday that would require all employers to provide paid sick leave, which is already being met with some fierce opposition.

Public officials from the White House on down have encouraged those with flu symptoms to stay home. But what happens if you don’t get paid sick days and cannot afford not to go to work?

"Think about going to breakfast in the morning, and ordering a bagel, and getting a side dish of H1N1, because the person who served it was not feeling well," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The City Council held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would require all employers in the city to provide up to nine paid sick days.

On one side, the local business community -- which rallied against the bill Tuesday morning -- say it would place an enormous burden on small businesses, which would be forced to cut salaries and benefits, lay off workers or relocate altogether.

"Pile on another expense to us, you’re gonna put people out of business. You’re gonna encourage people to move their business out of New York City. I’m a mile from New Jersey. It’s a hop over the bridge. And it’s very tempting," said Tom Scarangello of Scaran Heating & Air Conditioning Owner.

"I’m predicting that if this bill is passed in its current form, it’s going to result in the layoff of thousands of workers in New York City," said Metro Optics Eyewear owner John Bonizio.

On the other side of the issue is a broad coalition that includes labor groups, elected officials and feminist Gloria Steinem. They say almost half of the city’s workforce has no paid sick leave.


"We are the only industrialized country in the whole world in which this is not a national requirement. So we are having to do it piecemeal-state by state, city by city," Steinem said.

Asked about the bill Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed reservations.

"Everybody would love to be able to have paid sick leave, and at the same time, it’s true that a lot of small businesses probably can’t afford it, and so we’ve got to find some ways of balancing those two things," Bloomberg said.

But the most important opinion is that of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who controls what bills comes to a vote. She says she’s not yet taken a position.

While the bill has the overwhelming support of Council members, it’s likely that details of the legislation will be debated and rewritten, with any vote still likely several months away. It's also possible the bill could be preempted by federal paid sick leave legislation currently being debated in the nation's capital.

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