One Million NYC Workers Will Finally Get Paid Sick Leave

New York City is on track to order thousands of companies to give paid time off for sick employees, despite the best efforts of business leaders and City Council speaker/mayoral hopeful Christine C. Quinn. The agreement isn't perfect, but it'll allow around one million workers to earn paid time off to recover from illness or care for family members without losing money or their jobs. That's huge.

Quinn was responsible for blocking action on the sick-leave legislation for three years; she said it would hurt the city's economy. But unions, elected officials, and activists including one-time supporter Gloria Steinem and the Working Families Party relentlessly pressured her until she caved. From the New York Times:

The outcry, which coincided with the official declaration of Ms. Quinn's mayoral campaign, quickly took center stage in the mayor's race, spilling out into contentious candidate forums and turning into an emblem of Ms. Quinn's complicated relationship with left-leaning Democrats.

In one particularly potent tactic, advocates persuaded the usually timid members of the Council to try to circumvent Ms. Quinn and force a vote on a version of the bill that was unacceptable to her, a maneuver never tried during her tenure as speaker.

Soon after it became clear that she might face a revolt in the City Council, Ms. Quinn sought to end the controversy - and cast off a political liability - by jump-starting negotiations, working with a local building service workers' union with whom she has a close relationship.

The legislation, which would mandate companies with at least 15 employees to give full-time workers five paid days off a year, wouldn't take effect until Spring 2014, and for the first 18 months, it would apply only to businesses with more than 20 employees. It'll also be less strict than similar bills in Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, which cover all companies or those with more than five workers. That's what advocates had initially fought for, but given that Quinn's ideal rule would apply to companies with 50 or more workers, 15 is a pretty solid number. Those exempt from the requirement because of their low number of employees would have to offer workers five days of unpaid sick leave annually. "It's not perfect," Sherry Leiwant, co-president of advocacy group A Better Balance, told the Times. "But it's very important to get this done in New York."

Debra L. Ness, President of The National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement today that the news could have national reprecussions: "With paid sick days in place in Connecticut, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland, Oregon, and coming soon to New York City and, we hope, Philadelphia, we may be at the tipping point in the effort to make this humane, common sense policy available to millions more workers. When workers can earn paid sick days, our families and economies are stronger and our communities more vibrant."

[NYT]