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April 6, 2012

Businesses Launch “Conscious Consumer Initiative” to Highlight and Promote Businesses that Provide Paid Sick Days

For Immediate Release:

For more information: Javier Valdes (English and Spanish) – (917) 679-2971

JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS – Today, a group of local small business owners, City Council Members and community leaders stood together to announce their support for paid sick days at Terraza 7 Live Music, a restaurant and music venue in Jackson Heights.  The group launched a “Conscious Consumer Initiative” to highlight and promote local businesses that already provide paid sick days.

Supporters are calling on City Council to pass the Paid Sick Time bill (Int 0097-2012), which would ensure that 1.5 million New Yorkers without access to paid sick days are able to take time off when they or their families are ill. In addition to the support of small businesses, the bill has 35 Council sponsors and is supported by a diverse coalition of labor unions, women’s rights organizations, healthcare providers and community organizations.

“I know how important it is to take time off when you are sick to prevent disease from spreading,” said Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Live Music, who was trained as a physician in his native Colombia before immigrating to Queens. “As a business owner I believe giving paid sick days is not only the right thing to do, it also builds a stronger business.”

Leni Juca, owner of the Oxium Copy Shop in Jackson Heights, which provides paid sick days, left his job at a large chain to start his own business. “I left corporate America to start a small business because I wanted to be treated like a full human being, not a number,” said Juca. “In my business I treat my employees like family. Everyone gets sick, and that’s why I provide paid sick days. People come back to work more committed because they know I’m there for them.”

Juca and Castiblanco are both leaders in Small Business United. Today they joined with Make the Road NY, which has over 4,000 Queens members, to announce the creation of a “Conscious Consumer Card” and a grassroots mobilization and education campaign to highlight and promote responsible businesses in the community like Terraza 7 and Oxium that provide paid sick days to their employees.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras, representing Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst, is a sponsor of a proposal in the New York City Council to guarantee paid sick days, joined the rally to announce her support for the initiative. “Make the Road’s Conscious Consumer initiative is a great way to let the community know which businesses offer paid sick days to their workers,” said Council Member Ferreras. “Paid sick time is a small measure that can have an immediate, positive impact on business productivity, reduce unemployment, and strengthen financial security for families who desperately need relief.”

“I’m proud to stand with small businesses that support their communities and their workers by providing paid sick days,” said Wilfredo Larancuent, a leader in Workers United and in the Working Families Party.  “All working New Yorkers should support the businesses that support our communities.”

“I have suffered as a result of not having paid sick days. Thousands of other workers in Jackson Heights and Corona have as well,” said Rocio Loyola, a Make the Road member and Jackson Heights resident. “Today we’re coming together to show the economic power we have as a community. We’re here to educate consumers to support businesses that provide paid sick days with their dollars. That’s what this is all about.”

Other Council Members also expressed their support for the small business led “Conscious Consumer Initiative.”

Council Member Gale Brewer, the lead sponsor of the paid sick days bill, said:

“The health of all New Yorkers is at risk when workers with contagious illnesses ride the subway, prepare and serve food, and take care of children and seniors. Making sure that people can afford to stay home when they or a loved one are sick is critical to keeping our city healthy but it’s also good business policy – owners cite increased worker quality of life along with loyalty and productivity. I am proud to join these small business owners, Make the Road, and Council Member Ferreras in launching the Conscious Consumer, Conscious Business Initiative to highlight best practices for consumers and encourage their adoption throughout our city.”

Council Member Margaret Chin said:

“This campaign will allow business that already offer paid sick leave to show that they are responsible employers. These businesses have taken the initiative to offer paid sick days to their employees because it is right thing to do – and they should be rewarded. This campaign will allow consumers to support local businesses and the causes they are passionate about at the same time. I think this is a campaign that can go citywide, and I offer my support to Council Member Ferreras and advocates to make that happen.”

Council Member Annabel Palma said:

“The Paid Sick Leave bill, proposed by Council Member Brewer, is an immensely important piece of legislation that will ensure employees in our city are provided adequate paid sick leave.  The “Conscious Consumer, Conscious Business” initiative offers a wonderful opportunity for New York City residents, whether consumers or business owners, to show their support for the spirit of this bill and to prove that it is possible for businesses to do things the right way in New York City.  I applaud Council Member Ferreras, the NYC Paid Sick Leave Coalition and all the businesses who have partnered to make this initiative happen.”

Council Member James Sanders Jr. said:

“Providing paid sick leave for our working men and women is simply the right thing to do, and I am proud to stand with my colleagues and local businesses in support of the new “Conscious Consumer, Conscious Business” Initiative.  We need good corporate citizens willing to stand up and do the right thing, setting an example that will pave the way for the rest of the City of New York to follow suit.  The reality is people get sick, especially in the winter months. You wouldn’t want someone with a head cold serving you in a restaurant or performing a physical exam.  Paid sick leave makes good business sense, good moral sense, and good common sense.”

Numerous studies show the positive impact that paid sick days have on businesses and the economy. Economists say job retention policies like paid sick days help reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy. San Francisco, which has had a paid sick days law for four years, was rated by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 as one of the top cities in the world to do business, and more than two in three San Francisco businesses support the local law with six in seven reporting no negative impact on profitability.

Across the country, cities and states have been adopting paid sick days policies to help improve public health and bolster the economic recovery. In June, Connecticut passed the first statewide paid sick days law. Seattle and Philadelphia City Councils both recently passed paid sick days laws in the fall, and the Governor and Secretary of Labor in Massachusetts are supporting a bill in the state legislature.

The NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign is a coalition of low wage workers, women’s rights advocates, healthcare providers, small business owners, labor unions and community organizations who believe New York cannot afford to wait for paid sick days. Paid sick days is a commonsense policy for our city and our economy that protects family economy security and public health.