Early Thursday, the New York City council successfully overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of a bill giving New York workers access to paid sick leave, at long last. The bill phases in over two years, beginning in April 2014 for businesses with 20 workers or more.
The bill’s passage after a three year battle comes after supporters were able to broker a deal with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in March. New York will now be the fifth city in the United States to require private sector employers to provide a minimum amount of earned paid sick time to their employers, joining Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC (the Philadelphia City Council has twice passed paid sick leave legislation. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has vetoed the bill both times). Connecticut remains the only state with this distinction. This is a big win for the people of New York City. Overall, it’s a wise investment for employers, workers and the general public.
Nearly 40% of the private sector workforce in the United States has no ability to earn paid sick time. Furthermore, access to paid sick days has historically been far more common among high-income workers, leaving low-income families with little protection when they get sick or need to visit the doctor. This important legislation not only protects workers from lost pay or potential job loss when they or their family members get sick, it also protects the public by keeping sick workers, who feel economically compelled to work, from spreading illness to co-workers and customers.
Furthermore, the great benefits of earned sick days far outweigh the costs. The costs to business are often overstated, when the reality is that earned paid sick days cost very little when compared to business sales, as we showed in the case of Connecticut (and as we testified before the New York City Committee on Civil Service and Labor in March of this year).
While the lack of a national paid sick days policy has continued to erode family economic security, the efforts of jurisdictions around the country that have stepped up for workers and their families serve as models for cities and states throughout the nation.