Family Values @ Work

Chris Quinn Faces Renewed Paid Sick Days Push

July 18, 2012

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn got hit with another wave of pressure today by advocates of paid sick leave legislation, including an appeal — via the Working Families Party — from Gloria Steinem. 

“If you have paid sick days it’s easy enough to take them for granted. If you or your child gets sick, you stay home to recover or go to the doctor. You are not punished financially for taking care of your health and your children. It’s time to ensure all working women – and men – have the same economic security,” the women’s rights icon wrote in a WFP petition-signing appeal. “Paid sick days are important for the workers, but also for the rest of us. Most people without paid sick days work in industries where we can least afford to have sick workers. But if a waitress or day care provider can’t afford to take a day off, her only alternative is to go to work sick or send her child to school sick. And that puts everyone else at risk.”

Said Quinn in a statement, “I believe providing paid sick leave to hardworking families is a worthy and admirable goal, one I would like to make available for all. However, with the current state of the economy and so many businesses struggling to stay alive, I do not believe it would be wise to implement this policy, in this way, at this time.

“I stand by the commitment I made more than a year ago — to continue to meet and discuss the legislation, in the context of the evolving economy, with Council leaders and the Paid Sick Coalition.”

The WFP petition was only one prong of a renewed paid sick leave push: Today also marked the launch of the Women for Paid Sick Days coalition, which includes Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis; and Maria Castaneda, secretary-treasurer of 1199/SEIU.

“We’re going to push and prod and call on Speaker Quinn to bring this important measure up for a vote,” Poo said. “She needs to know what we expect of our leaders: to respond to the needs of the people who drive our economy forward, but are so often ignored.”

Quinn — who sides with Mayor Bloomberg, the man she might one day replace, on this one — isn’t alone in her continued opposition to the bill, of course: The 5 Boro Chamber of Commerce Coalition sent out a statement praising her for not caving in to proponents’ demands:

“We commend Speaker Quinn for consistently understanding that this bill would hurt small businesses, and we respectfully urge her to continue to oppose the bill so that the city’s engine of job creation and economic growth can keep running. Although well-meaning, proponents need to walk in the shoes of the business owner in NYC where costs of doing business are prohibitive and every day is financially challenging. Then perhaps they would understand that continued mandates jeopardize the health of small business and jobs,” the business group said.

“Paid Sick Leave legislation would force New York City businesses to cut jobs, reduce hours, lower wages, reduce benefits and raise prices to cover the costs of this misguided mandate. It also would confer a competitive advantage to New Jersey, Conn. and the surrounding counties in New York State.”