Will New Yorkers Finally Get Paid Sick Leave?

Why we must keep up the pressure on politicians.

Here's a perfect example of why we need movements to keep up the pressure on politicians, even the ones who are our allies on many issues: New York City workers are expected to get sick leave after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn finally started negotiating for real and will let a paid sick leave bill come to a vote after coming under pressure for blocking it for three years. The compromises Quinn forced make it a less than perfect bill, but it will benefit a vast number of New York City's most vulnerable workers.

Under the agreement, which will likely be vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg but has the council votes for a veto override, businesses with 20 employees or more will have to offer five days a year of paid sick leave beginning April 1, 2014, and businesses with 15 employees or more must offer five days of paid leave beginning October 1, 2015. Beginning April 1, 2014, businesses of all sizes must offer five days of unpaid sick leave. All businesses will also be prohibited from firing workers for taking sick leave.

These are huge advances for workers who have no sick leave options at all right now. But:

New York’s measure would be less stringent than similar requirements in Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, which cover either all companies or those with five or more workers.  

In a provision designed to placate the city’s corporate leaders, the sick-leave requirement would not be implemented next year should the city’s economy significantly erode, as measured by a financial index kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Because heaven forbid businesses experience any hardship when we can just keep shifting it to workers.

Low-wage workers, who are likely not to have sick leave, may also soon see another advance in New York City and in the state as a whole: The state legislature is expected to pass a bill increasing the state's minimum wage in three steps, rising to $9.00 an hour in 2016. That plan, too, has some serious flaws, including a provision to subsidize the increase in wages of teenage workers, giving employers reason to try to replace adults with teens. But again, for all its flaws, it would concretely improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers.

Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.