The feminist author Gloria Steinem is leading a campaign to pressure Speaker Christine C. Quinn to allow a City Council vote on a bill that would require businesses to give their employees paid sick leave.
Ms. Steinem, a prominent supporter of Ms. Quinn, has signed a letter along with roughly 200 other influential women in politics, labor and public health, urging Ms. Quinn to bring the measure to a vote. But Ms. Quinn replied that she would not do so now.
In an e-mail, Ms. Steinem said that passage of the legislation would have a disproportionate benefit for women, both because they typically shoulder the burden of caring for sick children and because they are overrepresented in low-wage industries where workers often are not paid or are fired for absence.
“I’ve seen women lose their jobs, lose their apartments, and spend two years getting their kids back from foster care — all starting with a sick child,” Ms. Steinem wrote.
The proposed bill would require most businesses with five or more employees to provide five days of paid sick leave, per year. It has the support of a veto-proof majority in the City Council, but it is opposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and some members of the business community and has proved vexing for Ms. Quinn, a Democrat who is trying to cultivate business support as she prepares to run for mayor next year.
She shelved an earlier version of the bill in 2010, saying that she was concerned that it would threaten the survival of small businesses.
On Tuesday, Ms. Quinn said in a statement that although she saw providing paid sick leave as a worthy goal, “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 supporters of the measure, she added.
In addition to Ms. Steinem, the letter urging a vote on the measure was signed by, among others, Ruth Messinger, a former Manhattan borough president and the 1997 Democratic nominee for mayor; C. Virginia Fields, a former Manhattan borough president; Betsy Gotbaum, a former public advocate; Marjorie Hill, the chief executive officer of Gay Men’s Health Crisis; Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; the novelist Jhumpa Lahiri; and the actress Cynthia Nixon.
San Francisco, Seattle and Washington all have similar legislation, and Connecticut passed a statewide law last year.
Ms. Steinem’s outspoken position seems likely to put Ms. Quinn in a particularly uncomfortable position. Ms. Steinem has been a strong supporter of Ms. Quinn’s mayoral ambitions, introducing her at a 500-person fund-raiser last fall.
But in her e-mail, Ms. Steinem said that before she gave her support to Ms. Quinn, she had told her that it was conditional on Ms. Quinn’s bringing the paid-sick-day bill to a vote.
“She said that discussions were under way about the size of businesses to be covered,” Ms. Steinem said of their conversation at the time. She added, “I’m hoping this can be worked out.”