Will New York City Mayoral Front-Runner Kill Paid Sick Leave Again?
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“I don’t know if it was a political error,” says Cantor. “I think it was a mistake.” He says there remains “a fair amount of anger on this among organizers and advocates, especially in immigrant and of-color communities, because they’re so over-represented in the low-wage workforce.”
Quinn’s 2006 ascendance to City Council Speaker was applauded by many progressives. She boasted activist roots, and she was the first woman and first LGBT person to hold the second most powerful position in the largest city in the country. But recent years have been marked by a steady rapprochement between Quinn and the city’s business establishment, including Mayor Bloomberg, for whom Quinn was once a regular antagonist and is now a frequent ally.
The New York Times last year called Bloomberg's support for Quinn's mayoral aspirations "the worst-kept secret in City Hall." A July Capital New York article on business support for a Quinn mayoral run quoted Wylde, of the business-backed Partnership for New York City, saying "Christine has established credibility and a strong relationship with many members of the business community. I was, as a young person, a radical too."
As Capital New York and others observe, Quinn has been drawning increasing praise from business leaders and increasing criticism from progressives. (Last month, she became the first mayoral contender to defend NYPD monitoring of Muslim organizations.) The New York Times ran an articlelast month on Quinn's close friendship with super-lobbyist Emily Giske, whose firm represents paid sick leave opponent Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC.
In January, Quinn reiterated her opposition to the measure. Quinn warned that the bill "could cost us jobs, and cost us small businesses and their future in these tough economic times." That stance puts her to the right of her expected opponents in next year's Democratic mayoral Primary: Bill DeBlasio, Scott Stringer and John Liu.
“The electoral crucible helps us…” says Cantor. “Politics is fluid. If there’s enough education and agitation and energy, we think she’ll be open to revising that view.”
The approaching primary is one of several factors advocates cite as reasons for optimism about overcoming the Speaker’s opposition this year. These include the improving economy, Bloomberg’s declining influence, the increasing breadth of their coalition, and in particular their efforts to reduce the appearance and reality of broad small business opposition.
The version of paid sick leave that will soon be introduced in Council has been scaled back to pre-empt criticism. Most significantly, it no longer requires businesses with fewer than five employees to provide paid leave (it does require them to provide short-term unpaid leave in cases of medical emergency).
Javier Valez, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York, says the current bill is “is completely different from the one that we were debating” in 2010. He says the majority of New York small businesses have fewer than five businesses.
While limiting the legislative language, the coalition—which includes major unions and the city's labor council—is working to highlight its small business support. Last week, Make the Road launched a “Conscientious Consumer Initiative," which includes a list of businesses providing paid sick days and publicly backing the legislation. “Those voices were just not part of the conversation in 2010…” says Valdez. “We’ve got to continue to show that there’s different voices out there that represent the small business community.”
Make the Road is distributing thousands of leaflets listing these businesses and encouraging customers to patronize them. Advocates say such efforts clarify who the real opposition is: big business.