Ordinance First of its Kind in New Jersey; Newark Earned Sick Days Legislation Expected Early October as Momentum Builds Statewide
Third Win for Sick Days This Year Celebrated as Legislatures in Vermont, Massachusetts and Tacoma, Washington Move Bills Forward
Jersey City, NJ – Adding to the growing number of cities that ensure working people are able to take time off when they are sick, City Council members in Jersey City voted in a 7-1 decision Wednesday evening to pass the Earned Sick Time Bill (13.097). Jersey City becomes the sixth city in the country to adopt such a law, following similar legislation that passed in Portland, Oregon and New York City earlier this year.
The ordinance, championed by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and local activists, will enable more than 30,000 Jersey City private sector employees to earn up to five paid sick days a year for workers in businesses with ten or more employees, and up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time for employees in businesses with less than ten employees.
“Paid sick leave will help working families in Jersey City so they won’t have to choose between missing a day of work and caring for their own health or that of a family member,” said Mayor Fulop. “Not only is this a matter of basic human dignity, it is also a public health initiative that will benefit all Jersey City residents as well as those who work here. We commend the City Council for voting in support. We know that we will be sued over this legislation, which is disappointing and harmful to Jersey City. It means delaying these important benefits to those most in need while at the same time not enhancing public health in the city.”
The legislation provides for a third-party study that would assess the impact of the bill on the city’s economy over its first year and make recommendations on whether to extend paid sick days to additional private sector workers next year. It will go into effect 120 days from its passage, on January 25 of 2014.
“This legislation means I no longer have to worry about losing pay or getting fired if I need to take time off work when my little girl gets sick,” said James Burks, a security worker in Jersey City and member of New Jersey Time to Care, a diverse coalition of local businesses; workers; civil rights organizations; public health experts; and healthcare professionals who support the bill. “All families deserve that kind of basic security, and I’m proud that my city is doing its part to protect working families struggling to get by.”
With support across party lines – polls consistently show that over 80% of voters, including Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike, support paid sick days – and local and national leaders, including President Obama, committing to “redouble our efforts on behalf of fairer workplaces and healthier, more secure families,” momentum for earned sick days legislation is growing across the country.
Jersey City joins five other cities – Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; New York City; and Portland, Oregon – that have taken action to help boost the economy by making sure workers can hang on to critical income when ill. In NYC, paid sick days legislation was a powerful determinant in the outcome of this month’s Democratic primary for mayor, as voters were less likely to vote for Speaker Christine Quinn after she blocked action on paid sick days for three years. Currently, Washington, D.C. is working to expand their existing paid sick days laws to cover all workers, while campaigns for statewide sick days laws are moving forward in Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and elsewhere.
“Policies like earned sick days are about people’s health but also about the health of our economy – keeping money in the pockets of working families so they can cover the basics,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, the national network of 21 city and state coalitions, including the Time to Care Coalition in New Jersey, working on these issues. “We applaud our member coalition in Jersey City, which moved quickly to implement common-sense policies that ensure workers will not risk their jobs when they or a loved one is sick. More than 30,000 Jersey City workers will no longer have to choose between following doctor’s orders and putting food on the table. Local groups are gaining unprecedented momentum and will continue to advance family-friendly policies across the country, paving the way for national standards.”
Riding the wave of state and national support, lawmakers in Newark are looking to follow in Jersey City’s footsteps with their own earned sick days legislation, which is slated for introduction in early October. Currently, more than 38,000 workers in Newark have no paid sick days. In the State capital of Trenton, New Jersey lawmakers are also advancing a bill that would make it possible for all 1.2 million New Jersey workers who lack access to paid sick days to earn this time.
Numerous studies and practical experiences with earned sick days show a positive impact on businesses and the economy, and economists say job retention policies like earned sick days help reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy. San Francisco, which has had a law in place for six years, was rated one of the top cities in the world to do business by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and more than two in three San Francisco businesses now support the local law; six in seven report no negative impact on profitability. In Connecticut, which passed the first statewide paid sick days law in 2011, the Department of Labor reports that employment has grown since the law’s passage, particularly in the Leisure and Hospitality and Education and Health Services sectors, the two most impacted by the new law. And most recently, a report from Seattle by Main Street Alliance of Washington found that one year after Seattle’s implementation of earned sick days, the legislation has had no negative impact on business.
“The Jersey City Council vote was an incredible victory for working families, public health and the economy,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen Action and a spokesperson for the Time to Care Coalition. “While the fight for earned sick days for each and every New Jerseyan is far from over, Wednesday’s vote proved beyond doubt that the momentum is on the side of working families.”
Contact: Alex Edwards, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-800-8691
Family Values @ Work is the national network of city and state coalitions, including the coalition in New Jersey, fighting for and winning family-friendly workplace policies like paid sick days and family leave insurance.
Additional Reaction to Earned Sick Days Passage
“My employees make far more than minimum, and like many small businesses, they already have sick pay,” said Tony Sandkamp, owner of Sandkamp Woods in Jersey City. “In addition to cutting down on workplace illness and protecting productivity, a sick time standard will help improve retention and cut turnover costs. As small business owners, we’re tired of hired lobbyists claiming to speak for small businesses when they don’t really represent us. As a Jersey City small business owner, we can speak for ourselves: we say yes to the earned sick time ordinance.”
“Elected officials are quickly realizing that passing earned sick days laws is the right thing to do for workers and the smart thing to do for local businesses and consumers,” said Bill Holland, a Jersey City resident and executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “Newark’s City Council is already gearing up to pass an ordinance giving all of their city’s workers a chance to earn paid sick time. Passing earned sick days in New Jersey’s two largest cities would be a powerful catalyst for bringing this movement to the rest of the state.”
“Research clearly shows that earned sick days policy has a positive impact on the economic and well-being of our communities, employers and employees, especially low-income working women who are more likely to have family caregiving responsibilities and thus need sick leave benefits in order to be able to care for family without fear of losing their job,” said Karen White, Director of the Working Families Program at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work.
“Workers coming to work sick actually costs our nation $160 billion annually according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, far more than the cost of workers staying at home to recover,” said Bill Rodgers, Professor of Public Policy and Chief Economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “When sick workers stay home, the spread of disease slows and workplaces are healthier and more productive. And by letting workers earn sick days businesses put money in the pockets of low-income workers who go out into the marketplace and spend it on goods and services. It’s a win-win for workers, employers, and local economies.”
“Mayor Fulop and members of the Jersey City Council deserve credit for taking the lead on one of the major workers’ rights and public health issues of the day,” said Kevin Brown, State Director of 32BJ SEIU. “With this law on the books fewer workers who become ill will have to choose between losing a day’s pay or going to work sick. Workers will be less likely to face financial hardship if they become ill, and the public will be at less risk of the spread of illness.”