Family Values @ Work

East Orange, Paterson Become 10th, 11th City — 4th and 5th in NJ — to Pass Paid Sick Days

September 10, 2014

Contact: Alex Edwards,, 202-800-8691

Unanimous Passage of Paid Sick Days Laws by Three Cities in One Week Signals Major Momentum for Policy that Strengthens Families, Workforce and Economy


(New Jersey) — In a sign of overwhelming momentum, the cities of East Orange and Paterson became the fourth and fifth cities in New Jersey, respectively, to pass paid sick days this week.  Councils in both municipalities unanimously passed the legislation, only a week after Passaic passed a similar measure by a vote of 7-0. In total, passage in the three New Jersey municipalities means an additional 44,000 New Jersey workers will no longer be forced to choose between the job they need and the family that needs them. Many more who already earn paid sick days for themselves will be able to use the time to care for a sick family member and without fear of retaliation

In response to the victories, Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work,  a network of coalitions in 21 states – including the Time to Care Coalition in New Jersey — that organize for paid sick days and paid family leave, issued the following statement:

“What’s happening in New Jersey on paid sick days is inspiring the rest of the country. Along with East Orange, Paterson, Passaic, and several other municipalities that will likely follow suit this fall, working families in New Jersey are paving the way for a strong, inclusive statewide bill. The broad grassroots coalition in New Jersey is showing that paid sick day isn’t just good politics, but good policy — for families, businesses and the economy.”

The laws passed in East Orange, Passaic, Paterson and pending in other municipalities are closely modeled on the Newark ordinance enacted this summer. They allow private-sector workers to earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.  Those that work in businesses with 10 or more employees can earn 5 paid sick days per year; workers in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be eligible to earn 3 paid sick days per year. In addition,employees directly in contact with the public, such as food service and daycare workers would be eligible to earn 5 sick days regardless of company size. The days can be used to care for themselves or for sick children, siblings, parents, grandparents or grandchildren.

“Two out of every three women in America are the sole breadwinner for their families, but their jobs don’t provide the time to care for their families when illness strikes,” said Maretta Short, President of the Essex County Chapter of the National Organization for Women and an East Orange resident. “Our families and needs have changed, but our workplace standards haven’t caught up. This law will go a long way towards making sure East Orange’s working women and their families have a fair shot at achieving lasting economic security and success.”

The ordinance was introduced as part of a coordinated campaign to pass local earned sick days laws in six more cities to build upon historic successes passing similar legislation in Newark and Jersey City. If the other three cities join Passaic, East Orange and Paterson, the Rutgers Center for Women and Work estimates local laws will cover 51,000 workers who are unable to earn paid sick days to care for themselves or their families in the event of an illness. Combined with Newark and Jersey City, a full 144,000 workers will have received the right to earn sick days through local ordinances.

Support for earned sick days is strong. Over 83 percent of New Jerseyans support earned sick days laws, according to a poll conducted by Rutgers Eagleton and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. Experts and academics agree with the positive assessment of thebill. Over 20 New Jersey economists went on the record last year to say that earned sick days laws actually strengthen local economies. Since passing earned sick days last year, Jersey City’s employment gains have significantly outpaced the rest of the state.

“This passage will mean East Orange and Paterson working families will no longer have to make the impossible choice between the well-being of their families and their financial security,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action and spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. “Workers will have more money to support their families and spend in local businesses, and communities will be healthier because these laws reduce the spread of illness and disease. Everybody will benefit.”

Momentum for earned sick days laws is surging within the region and nationwide. In April, the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition launched a campaign to pass a statewide earned sick days bill that would cover all of the 1.2 million New Jerseyans who can’t currently earn sick days. The effort to pass local earned sick days laws has built significant momentum for the law. Just one day after the New Jersey municipal effort launched, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced that the bill would go forward as early as September. 

“In Paterson and around the state, the people who tend to lack paid sick days are precisely the people who need them most,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families.  “They are often women and people of color supporting families that live on the edge. Thanks to the courage of local elected officials, these working families are now getting the basic economic security they need. Local leaders and grassroots activists are showing the way for a statewide bill that will extend to all New Jersey workers what should be a basic workplace right.”