On Thursday, the New York City Council overrode a mayoral veto of a paid sick day policy for the city’s workers. According to the Associated Press, more than 1 million workers will be affected by the new policy, which advocates say will keep workers from having to prioritize their financial well-being over their health, as well as limit exposures of sick employees to customers and coworkers.
The law will make New York City the most populous metropolitan area to undertake such a measure, placing it alongside other cities that have passed similar measures, including Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California. Paid sick day policy proposals have failed so far in Denver, Colorado; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In his veto statement, entrepreneur turned billionaire turned three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that allowing low-wage workers to take paid sick days would place an undue burden on business owners.
“Faced with this increase in costs, employers will seek to offset them in any number of ways, including reducing other benefits employees receive,” wrote Bloomberg earlier this month. “It will harm the very people it seeks to help.”
The mayor’s own corporation, Bloomberg LP, does offer paid sick days to employees.
Critics are fond of saying that paid sick days will be bad for businesses, but it’s just the opposite. Paid sick leave policies strengthen worker loyalty, increase productivity, and reduce turnover. In San Francisco, which was the first city to pass paid sick leave legislation in 2007,two-thirds of employers are supportive of the city’s ordinance.
The new New York City law, spearheaded by Councilmember Gale Brewer, stipulates that businesses with more than 20 workers will allow employees five paid sick days per year beginning in April 2014. Smaller businesses will have until October of 2015. All workers will have five unpaid sick days per year, meaning that employers cannot terminate workers for being ill.
Manufacturing companies have negotiated an exemption, arguing that they are still struggling from the effects of the recession. Their employees, however, will still be allowed unpaid sick days under the law, without having to fear that they will be fired for missing work.
Supporters acknowledge that the New York City law has room for improvement, but hope that the new legislation will be a model for other cities moving forward.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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