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New York City-Area Chambers of Commerce Unite Against Sick-Days Bill

September 9, 2009
New York City’s chambers of commerce have joined forces to fight a bill—supported by an overwhelming majority of City Council members—that would compel employers to provide their workers with up to nine paid sick days per year.

The groups have formed the 5 Boro Chamber Alliance to oppose the measure, which they contend could force companies to rethink hiring plans or lay off workers.

“It’s as if the City Council doesn’t understand that we are trying to survive the worst economic downturn in 80 years,” said Tom Scarangello, of SCARAN, a family-owned heating and air-conditioning company based in Staten Island, in a statement released by the alliance.

The group plans to make its case in meetings with Councilwoman Gail Brewer, D-Manhattan, the bill’s primary sponsor; Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has yet to take a position; representatives of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has indicated a willingness to support paid sick days for large firms but has stopped short of embracing the mandate for small ones; and the 37 council members who have signed on to the legislation.

Under the proposal, companies with 10 or more employees would have to provide nine paid sick days per year, while those with fewer than 10 workers would need to give five days. Violators would be hit with $1,000 fines.

The bill’s opponents have their work cut out for them, as the council members who are behind it provide a wide enough margin to withstand a mayoral veto.

A coalition of community, labor and public health groups has argued paid sick days could help contain the spread of the H1N1 virus by encouraging workers to stay home if they, or their children, are sick. The group held a press conference at Department of Education headquarters Tuesday, September 8, to draw attention to public school parents who cannot afford to take off when illness hits.

A survey by the Community Service Society shows that 1 million New Yorkers, including 39 percent of public-school parents and two-thirds of low-wage workers, do not receive paid sick days.

The bill’s backers contend paid sick day mandates in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have not adversely affected small businesses, which benefit from increased productivity and a level playing field.

Their push is being backed by Korean and Hispanic business groups.


Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com

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