15+ Women Elected Officials Call on Speaker Quinn to Bring Paid Sick Days Bill to Vote

Members of Congress and State Legislature to Join City Councilmembers on City Hall Steps

For immediate release.

Contact:
Joe Dinkin at (978) 223 5868 or jdinkin@workingfamilies.org
Emma Woods at (646) 200 5303 or emma@berlinrosen.com

More than 15 women elected officials representing New Yorkers in City Hall, Albany and Washington DC came together for a City Hall press conference calling on Speaker Quinn to allow a vote on the paid sick days bill. The bill has been awaiting action on the Council floor for more than 1000 days.

The press conference came on the heels of the publication of a letter to Speaker Quinn in the New York Times, calling for a vote on paid sick days, signed by feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem and more than 250 prominent New York women, including donors and philanthropists, labor and civil rights leaders, writers, artists and activists. In Thursday’s Times, Gloria Steinem said she would withdraw her endorsement of Quinn’s candidacy for Mayor if she refused to allow a vote on the bill, saying, “Making life fairer for all women seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman.”

The paid sick days bill would allow workers to earn five paid sick days a year, which employees could use to recover from illness, seek preventive care, or care for an ill family member. Businesses with fewer than five employees would be exempt from the requirement, and would only have to provide five unpaid but job protected sick days.

The bill has super-majority support on the City Council, with 37 co-sponsors out of 51 members of the Council. 

SELECTED QUOTES:

US CONGRESS

Rep. Yvette Clarke:

“The health of our economy depends on the health of our families. Despite widespread support from labor groups and legislators, the Paid Sick Leave Act is at a standstill. After one of the worst flu seasons in history, I urge City Council Speaker Quinn to bring this bill to a vote. No one should be forced to choose between their health and job security. The welfare of our employees must always remain a priority.”

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney:
“The facts are enough to make you sick: America is the only industrialized nation in the world that fails to guarantee paid sick leave. That’s why I’ve long advocated guaranteeing American workers paid sick days on the federal level. But right here in New York, we can bypass congressional gridlock, enact paid sick leave, and make the Big Apple a national leader in protecting the health of our citizens and guaranteeing elementary fairness to all the working women and men who make our great city tick. I urge the City Council to pass the paid sick leave legislation!”

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez:
“The time to pass the Sick Paid Act in New York City is long overdue. This issue of social justice and public health must be addressed immediately.”

NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE

State Senator Liz Krueger:
“Democracy works best when we have time to broadly discuss the issues. New York City has spent nearly four years seriously discussing paid sick leave.  Labor, business leaders, and elected officials at every level have made their cases — and their choices. With respect to my friend Speaker Quinn, it’s time to let our city’s democratic system do its job, have the Council vote on this bill and take this step forward together.”

Assemblymember Vanessa Gibson:
“Paid Sick Leave is a fundamental issue of economic justice that goes to the heart of the core values that new Yorkers throughout our City share. Passage of this legislation is crucial to recognizing the needs of New York’s working families and should be a top priority of the 2013 public policy agenda.”

Assemblymember Gabriella Rosa:
“As a long-time working mother that has experienced the delicate balancing act that occurs between raising children, managing a household, and working full-time, I cannot advocate strongly enough for the passage of the Paid Sick Time Act. It is long past time that our society supports all working families as they struggle to raise children, advance their careers, and contribute to their local workforce. I stand strongly with my fellow elected officials, workers, and activists as together we call upon the City Council to pass this important piece of legislation.”

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal:
“A healthy city and a healthy economy need healthy workers and healthy families. For anyone who didn’t already know, the recent flu outbreak should have convinced them: New York needs paid sick days. It’s long past time for a vote on the paid sick days bill, which no doubt would pass with votes to spare.”

Assemblymember Nily Rozic:
“For far too many New Yorkers, a day home from work means a day without pay–a choice they shouldn’t have to make. We need common sense work-family policies so that no one has to decide between being a good worker and a good family member.”

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas:
“I am proud to offer my support for the Paid Sick Time Act. No one should ever risk forgoing necessary medical treatment out of fear of losing their job or forfeiting essential income. The health of New York workers must come first, and job security should not hang in the balance of physical well-being.”

NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL

Councilmember Gale Brewer, lead sponsor of the paid sick days bill:
“I thank each of the women who have joined in support of our paid sick leave bill, and who time and again have stood with us or lent their name in print because they believe deeply that this bill must become law. It is the product of a long effort to address a basic need of the city’s working people. Speaker Quinn has long said that she believes in the goal of paid sick days, and now is the time to demonstrate it by showing her support for a fair vote on the bill in committee and at the Council.” 

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley:
“As a mother of two and an elected official I know how important it is to have paid sick days. For a healthy city we must move forward and pass this bill.”

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras:
“Since its introduction in 2010, I have been a supporter of the Paid Sick Days Act. In my district, there is an overwhelming majority of residents that do not have paid sick days – many of whom are low-income female and immigrant workers. If passed, the act would not only help protect these workers from being exploited on the job, but more importantly, this legislation will set a precedent that our great city cares for its own people. Working mothers who are struggling to make ends meet should not be forced to face the unthinkable task of having to choose between their health and the health of their children or risk losing their job and family income. A vote for paid sick days is a win for the economy, a win for the people and a win for small business owners, who only stand to gain from the productivity a well-rested and healthier staff will bring.”

Councilmember Jessica Lapin:
“No parent should have to choose between tending to a sick child and the job their family depends on. That’s why Paid Sick Leave is so important.”

Councilmember Annabel Palma:
“I am proud to stand with these women in support of the Paid Sick Time Act.  Simply, paid sick leave makes sense – as matter of public health, business principle, and fairness.”

Former Councilmember Una Clarke:
“Women have become the engine that drives the economy, from the women who care for our children, our elderly, our food industry, our clothing, and clerical, health care or corporate offices. Women can no longer be undervalued, or marginalized. Equal pay now.”

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Chris Hayes on New York Times Ad signed by Gloria Steinem and hundreds of prominent New York Women

This weekend on UP!, Chris Hayes covered our campaign’s New York Times ad signed by hundreds of prominent women in New York, asking Speaker Quinn to allow a vote on the paid sick days bill. You can add your name to the letter here.

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Transcript:

Here’s an update on another story we’ve been covering here on UP! Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn has still after 1000 days not brought to a vote a bill that would require all businesses in the city to give their employees five paid sick days a year. This week, Gloria Steinem, who I had the pleasure of talking to on UP! recently, signed a letter along with hundreds of other women that ran in an ad in the New York Times calling for Ms. Quinn to bring the paid sick days legislation up for a vote. Steinem has been a prominent support of Christine Quinn who would if elected be the first woman and the first out gay person elected Mayor of New York. But Gloria Steinem now says that if Christine Quinn doesn’t bring the legislation to a vote, she will withdraw her support. “Making life fairer for all women,” Steinem told the New York Times, “seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman.”

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“Making Life Fairer For All Women…”

Today, feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem delivered a powerful message to Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the New York Times, calling for a vote on the paid sick days bill.

“Making life fairer for all women seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman,” Ms. Steinem said, adding that the bill would ensure that working mothers could better take care of sick children without fear of losing their jobs.

More press coverage on Gloria’s remarks:

Jezebel: Supporting Christine Quinn Is Not as Important as Supporting NYC’s Working Women

Gothamist: Quinn Continues To Block Paid Sick Days Vote, Incurring Gloria Steinem’s Wrath

Huffington Post: Gloria Steinem Pressures NYC Speaker Christine Quinn On Paid Sick Leave Bill

CapitalNY: A feminist’s litmus test for Quinn

Crains: From the Department of Good Timing

City & State: WINNERS: Gloria Steinem

Daily Change: GLORIA STEINEM TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR CHRISTINE QUINN UNLESS SHE ALLOWS A VOTE ON SICK DAYS

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Chris Hayes: “Now we know” food workers without sick days make you sick

On this weekend’s MSNBC show Up With Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes addressed the millions of food workers who can’t take a day off when they get sick with a virus like the flu:

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If you don’t want to watch the video, a transcript is below.

A new Centers for Disease Control study shows that most norovirus outbreaks, between 53 and 82%, can be traced to a sick food worker. Nearly 80% of food workers don’t have paid sick days — or don’t know whether they do — so they are forced to either go to work sick or miss out on a much-needed paycheck.

Hayes advised New Yorkers who come down with the norovirus to send “a note of gratitude” to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has been holding up a paid sick days bill for more than 1000 days. Instead, you might want to sign our petition urging her to allow a vote on the bill.

Full transcript:

We now know that restaurants that refuse to give their employees paid sick days could be making you sick.

A nasty gastrointestinal bug raging through the country that I had the misfortune of getting to know first-hand over winter break is being transmitted chiefly by food workers. A recent Center for Disease control study identified infected food workers as a source of between 53 and 82% of norovirus outbreaks. We know the Food Chain Workers Alliance reports that nearly 80% of food workers don’t have paid sick days or don’t know they do, which means most food workers who already make very little money must choose between coming to work sick or forfeiting a day’s wages and when they make the decision to work even though ill, well, you may end up ill as well.

We know here in New York, several members of the City Council have proposed a bill that would require employers to give workers just five sick days a year, but Council President and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn opposes this common sense measure and has not brought it to the floor for a vote.

If you’re a New Yorker who’s had the misfortune of contracting the norovirus, maybe you should send Christine Quinn a note of gratitude.

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Elmhurst worker fired for single sick day

By Alexa Altman, Queens Courrier
Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 12:13 PM EST

For four months, Emilio Palaguachi, 43, worked 60-hour weeks behind the counter at Superior Deli on the Lower East Side. One day, he felt ill, and with the permission of his manager, missed a day of work to visit a doctor. But when he returned to work the next day, he was handed one day’s pay and fired.

“They didn’t give me any explanation,” said Palaguachi to a translator. “I asked if I had done something wrong and nobody knew what to say. Actually, everyone [co-workers] was upset because of how I was fired.”

As New York battles through one of the worst flu seasons in recent history, the divisive issue of sick leave hits hard with many workers struggling between recuperating from illness and retaining their jobs. More than a million New York City workers lack paid sick days, most operating in the food service, retail and health care industries, according to the NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign.

In August of 2009, the Paid Sick Time Act was first introduced to the New York City Council garnering support from members of the council, residents and civil rights groups. In 2012, the bill was revisited and rewritten to require businesses with more than 20 employees to allot nine paid sick days; companies with five to 20 workers to grant five days; and small businesses with fewer than five employees designate five unpaid, but job-protected, sick days each year. The bill has yet to be voted on by the council.

Julissa Bisono of Make the Road New York, a Jackson Heights based social justice organization, said opposition to the bill comes from small businesses, fearful that paid sick days may lead to bankruptcy.

“This bill will not only give people paid sick days but protect their jobs so they don’t come in the next day and find out that they don’t have a job because they took the day off to recover,” said Bisono.

Although the bill has 37 co-sponsors, City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn remains opposed, citing the city’s current economic status.

“This issue of paid sick leave, it’s a laudable goal,” Quinn said. “But in this economy if we do it right now in the way envisioned in the bill we’re going to put people out of business and we are going to lose jobs. This is not the right time to do it.”

Postponed by Superstorm Sandy, a second hearing on the bill has yet to be set by Quinn.

Palaguachi, who supports his wife and four young children, is concerned about finding another job and providing for his family. While his search has not yet been successful, Palaguachi said he hopes his next position will include benefits, sick days and days off for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“Workers like me should be able to go to the doctor if we feel bad, and not show up to work if we are feeling ill, especially if we handle food and see customers,” said Palaguachi. “A lot of people can’t afford to take a day off. A lot of people don’t take off because they don’t want to lose their job. If someone is sick, this law will help prevent people from getting sick. You can go to the doctor and you’re not worried about losing your job.”

Read the article on the Queens Courrier’s site.

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AP: Flu season even tougher for those without paid sick time

More than 40 million Americans are not provided with paid sick leave by their employers, which contributes to the spread of germs. But many small business owners say that offering paid sick time is beyond their means.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Monday, January 21, 2013, 11:01 AM

Sniffling, groggy and afraid she had caught the flu, Diana Zavala dragged herself in to work anyway for a day she felt she couldn’t afford to miss.

A school speech therapist who works as an independent contractor, she doesn’t have paid sick days. So the mother of two reported to work and hoped for the best — and was aching, shivering and coughing by the end of the day. She stayed home the next day, then loaded up on medicine and returned to work.

“It’s a balancing act” between physical health and financial well-being, she said.

An unusually early and vigorous flu season is drawing attention to a cause that has scored victories but also hit roadblocks in recent years: mandatory paid sick leave for a third of civilian workers — more than 40 million people — who don’t have it.

Supporters and opponents are particularly watching New York City, where lawmakers are weighing a sick leave proposal amid a competitive mayoral race.

Pointing to a flu outbreak that the governor has called a public health emergency, dozens of doctors, nurses, lawmakers and activists — some in surgical masks — rallied Friday on the City Hall steps to call for passage of the measure, which has awaited a City Council vote for nearly three years. Two likely mayoral contenders have also pressed the point.

The flu spike is making people more aware of the argument for sick pay, said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work, which promotes paid sick time initiatives around the country. “There’s people who say, ‘OK, I get it — you don’t want your server coughing on your food,’” she said.

Advocates have cast paid sick time as both a workforce issue akin to parental leave and “living wage” laws, and a public health priority.

Read the rest of the article at the Daily News.

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Amsterdam News backs paid sick days

Paid sick leave: it’s not just an economic issue

by Elinor Tatum
Publisher and Editor in Chief

Editorial

In this city where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer – as underscored by the latest Census Bureau report showing poverty on the rise in New York City – one has to wonder what it will take for low-wage workers to start getting the benefits they deserve.

We as a society cannot guarantee that full-time, year-round workers can earn enough to lift their families out of poverty.  We can’t even guarantee that if they take a day off work because they are sick or the child is sick that they will still have a job the next day, let alone paid for it.

Sick workers are not productive.  And they are apt to get other workers sick as well.  If a person comes to work ill in fear of not getting paid or losing their job, he or she puts the entire workforce at risk.  In addition, a worker whose child is sick is preoccupied with trying to figure out how to keep the child cared for or, in some cases, a sick child is forced to go to school because that is the only alternative.  Sick leave is not just an economic issue; it is also a public health issue.

For more than three years now, a law requiring employers to provide their employees with a modest, minimum number of paid sick days has been languishing in the City Council.  Despite overwhelming support from New York City residents, and overwhelming support within the City Council itself, Speaker Christine Quinn won’t bring the measure up for a vote.

And it is not too difficult to figure out why.  The embarrassing gulf between the rich and the poor is not just about income.  It is also about influence.  And as long as the majority of people who do not have paid sick days are low-wage workers – the ones working at the fine dining establishments, not eating there – don’t expect a sense of urgency from too many politicians to make the issue move.

Every time a law is proposed to improve the lives of low-wage workers, we hear the same cries from business interests and the politicians they influence.  Small businesses will suffer!  Jobs will be lost!  And time and time again, when the change is allowed – after too many years of struggling, after the status quo has been tolerated for far too long – what happens?  The world doesn’t end.  Businesses adjust and do just fine.  Opponents move on unscathed.  But real harm has been done to the workers who had to wait years to gain fair labor practices and a little more dignity.  And so it goes.

Frankly, it’s quite astonishing that we’re even debating the issue.  The economic research and experience in places such as Connecticut and San Francisco, which already have paid sick days, shows no adverse impact on job growth.  Indeed, the relatively small cost of paid sick days – 0.8 percent of private sector compensation – is less than the recent minimum wager increases.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons pro business organizations such as the Harlem Business Alliance and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce has supported the measure.  In the City Council, 37 of the 51 members have said they will support the legislation, and we applaud them.  They recognize that passing this legislation will help small businesses – the backbone of our economy – not harm them, by stabilizing the very jobs of those who shop on 125th street and elsewhere in our city.

To those City Council members who have yet to support this much needed legislation but represent constituents who stand to benefit from its passage, its time to get onboard and tell the speaker to bring this matter to a vote.

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Prominent economists urge City Council to pass Paid Sick Time Act

Thirty prominent economists from the New York area sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, urging them to pass the Paid Sick Time Act.

They argued that the economic and public health benefits of the law far outweigh the relatively low costs:

We believe that now is an urgent time to pass the New York City Paid Sick Time Act. Fear of losing a job because of one’s illness or needing to care for a family member is all too real. A 2010 report from the National Opinion Research Center found that 23 percent of workers have lost a job or been threatened with job loss for taking time when caring for themselves or an ill family member. Even when not facing an outcome as drastic as being fired, workers without paid sick leave, who are most prevalent in the lowest pay quartile, still bear a large economic cost. An Economic Policy Institute study found that loss of a few days’ pay for a low-wage worker can equal a month’s worth of groceries. We should recognize that this hardship for workers also translates into lost sales for our local businesses. As a small business owner in Queens said, referring to workers who lose pay due to the lack of paid sick days, “These workers are my customers.”

And they encouraged New York City to listen to economic evidence and protect its workers:

It is an all too familiar pattern – time and time again the introduction of sensible public policies that improve public health and working conditions is met with alarmist outcries and assurances that adoption of the measure will upend our economy. From clean air to auto safety to labor standards, we have continually been told that progress is incompatible with a healthy economy. As economists, we reject this fallacy, and we strongly believe that now is the time to enact the New York City Paid Sick Time Act.

Read the whole letter here [PDF].

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Rountable shows paid sick days’ impact on jobs

More than a million working New Yorkers lack even a single paid day off to recover from an illness or care for a sick child. Efforts to win a minimum number of paid sick days for New York City workers have met with strong opposition from critics who say it would be a burden on employers. In April 2012, The Community Service Society of New York hosted a high-level policy roundtable to address the impact paid sick days would have on jobs in New York City.

Local business owner Freddy Castilblanco talked about how paid sick days would help the workers and customers at his Queens cafe:

Donna Levitt, the San Francisco labor standards enforcement official who oversees paid sick days, discussed her city’s 2007 implementation of the law:

For more information and more videos, check out CSS’s blog.

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Chris Hayes on Gloria Steinem’s call for Paid Sick Days

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Click here to join Gloria Steinem’s call for the New York City Council to pass the paid sick days bill >>

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