Legislation compelling employers to provide workers with up to nine paid sick days was scheduled to be reintroduced Thursday, March 25, by New York Councilwoman Gale Brewer, setting the stage for a battle between business groups intent on killing or at least gutting the bill and the labor-backed Working Families Party, which has made its passage a top priority.
The new bill is expected to contain changes from the one that was debated last year—notably, a shift in the definition of a small business, from fewer than 10 employees to fewer than 20. The bill will require small businesses to give workers five sick days and larger ones to provide nine. Fines would be levied at a rate of $1,000 per violation.
“No one opposes the right of employees to stay home when they’re sick without fear of retribution,” says Matthew Greller, an attorney at Tonio Burgos & Associates who is lobbying against the bill. “But we don’t think in this time in this recession should be proposing another unfunded mandate on businesses.”
Brewer’s office insists the councilwoman has listened to the business community’s reservations and incorporated their suggestions into the new bill—which is aimed at an estimated 1.5 million New York workers who get no paid sick time.
The bill is expected to have 35 sponsors, compared with 39 the last time around. But several council newcomers who are members of the just-launched Progressive Caucus—including Jumaane Williams and Daniel Dromm—have replaced officials who were only lukewarm supporters of the idea. The caucus has made adoption of paid sick days one of its founding priorities.
Supporters planned to rally outside City Hall to press for passage.
“President Obama’s health care reform is a big leap forward, but if you’re like the 48 percent of New York City’s workers that can’t take a day off without losing pay, seeing a doctor when you need to may still be impossible,” says a Working Families Party spokesman.