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NEWARK COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY PASSES PAID SICK DAYS BILL, WILL BECOME 2ND CITY IN NJ TO GUARANTEE SICK DAYS

January 28, 2014

Passage of sick day laws in NJ’s two largest cities back-to-back spells major momentum for the issue statewide

Contact: Alex Edwards, alex.edwards@berlinrosen.com, 202-800-8691

NEWARK – In a move to protect Newark’s public health and bolster its economy the City Council adopted an ordinance that would allow all private-sector workers to earn paid sick days. The legislation passed unanimously Tuesday morning, and if signed by Mayor Luis Quintana the ordinance will make Newark the 2nd city in New Jersey and the 7th city in the nation to enact an earned sick days law.

“Today is a tremendous victory for 38,000 workers who will never again have to choose between their paycheck and their health or the health of their family,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “By extending the right to earn sick days to every single worker in the city, Newark’s earned sick days law will be one of the most comprehensive in the nation. Lawmakers in Trenton and around the state should take notice.”

Looking forward, advocates pointed to a statewide bill introduced this spring by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Senator Loretta Weinberg that would cover all of New Jersey’s 1.5 million workers who currently lack paid sick days. The bill is being championed by the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition.

“While today’s vote is a huge victory for working families, there are still over a million New Jerseyans who lack the basic security that earned sick days provide,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen and spokesperson for the Time to Care Coalition. “In the coming year we’re going to build on the momentum from our victories in Jersey City and Newark and make New Jersey a leader in this nationwide fight for fairer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.”

The legislation comes just months after Jersey City passed the first earned sick days law in New Jersey. Five other cities – Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; New York City; and Portland, Oregon – have taken action to help boost the economy by making sure workers can hang on to critical income when ill. Washington D.C. recently expanded their existing paid sick days law to cover all workers, and New York is planning to do the same. In New York City 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 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn after she blocked action on paid sick days for three years. Campaigns for statewide sick days laws are moving forward in Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and elsewhere.

“Newark’s passage of paid sick days reflects a turning point for these policies in this country,” 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. “In 2013 alone, the number of cities who have passed paid sick days has more than doubled, underscoring the overwhelming public support and momentum for common-sense policies that value families at work. We applaud our member coalition in Newark, which moved quickly to implement legislation that will grant 38,000 workers with access to paid sick days, including ‘carving in’ workers involved in direct service food, home care and child care, and which will pave the way for similar victories in Trenton and beyond.”

The Newark bill would 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 would be eligible to earn 5 sick days regardless of company size, and the days can be used to care for themselves or family members.

“When I caught the flu last winter I knew I couldn’t go to work and risk infecting my clients,” said Tamika Hawkins, a professional home health care provider who lives in Newark and a member of New Jersey Communities United. “But without pay I fell behind on my bills and even received a shutdown notice from the electric company. This law will make a big difference for me and other hard-working people in Newark, and I’m proud that our city is now a leader in this fight.”

Support for the law has been overwhelming. The New Jersey Working Families Alliance delivered 10,000 postcards from Newark voters urging the City Council to pass the law, and New Jersey Citizen Action delivered a letter from over 60 organizations around New Jersey in support of the legislation. A September poll from Rutgers-Eagleton and the Center for Women and Work showed a commanding 82% of Essex County residents supported the policy.

Nearly one quarter of adults in the US have been fired or threatened with job loss for taking time off to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one, and the absence of paid sick days disproportionately affects low-income individuals. For a low-income family without paid sick days, going just 3.5 days without wages is the equivalent to losing a month’s groceries.

As of 2010 Newark’s poverty rate exceeds 30%.

“Through our community organizing work we are actively engaging residents on the issues they care most about and workplace issues frequently rise to the top of community concerns,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of NJ Communities United. “We have found that low-wage workers in particular fear losing their jobs if they call in sick to take care of themselves or their children. Passing earned sick days is especially important for residents working in direct care, retail, fast food, or any other industry where workers are in frequent contact with the public. There’s no question that paid sick days improves the lives of working families and the fabric of our communities.”

Health professionals praised the legislation for including special public health protections, including ensuring that workers in regular contact with the public are able to earn a full five sick days.

“By passing this legislation, Newark will join Jersey City as a city in our state that looks to protect workers, consumers, families, and the community as a whole from the spread of contagious illness and from ensuing health care costs,” said Elmer, RN and President of the Health Professional and Allied Employees Local 5089. “Providing earned sick days is a modest policy that will have a big impact.”

Advocates also touted the economic benefits of the legislation. Recently the Time to Care Coalition delivered a letter from over 20 New Jersey economists to the Newark Council urging them to support the law, saying it will bring tangible benefits to the local economy. A report from the New Jersey Main Street Alliance found that the Newark ordinance would save small businesses $4.2 million. Studies of earned sick days laws passed in San Francisco and Seattle showed no negative impact from earned sick days on local economies, and both cities outpaced neighbors that lacked earned sick time protection.

“Workers coming to work sick actually costs our nation $160 billion annually, far more than the cost of workers staying at home to recover,” said Karen White, Director of the Working Families Program at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “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.”

Coalition members that supported earned sick days in Newark and Jersey City include the Time to Care Coalition, SEIU 32BJ, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, New Jersey Communities United, the ACLU of New Jersey, AARP-NJ, the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, the New Jersey NAACP, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT, New Jersey Citizen Action, CWA District 1, and AFSCME Council 1.

Additional reaction to Paid Sick Days Passage:

“A healthier and more productive workforce benefits everyone. This Newark ordinance is a win -win for employees, businesses, and our whole economy,” said Corinne Horrowitz, business representative of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance.

“Paid sick days is a human rights issue. Families must be able to take care of their love ones without thinking about how they will pay their bills for taking a sick day off,” said Virgilio Oscar Aran, Executive Director of Laundry Workers Center.

“This is a proud day for Newark,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “No one should be forced to choose between protecting their health and their job. This new requirement of paid sick days will give Newarkers fundamental protections to keep their families healthy and their jobs secure. We commend Councilman Anibal Ramos for his leadership and the Newark Municipal Council for its passage of this critically important policy. We look forward to continuing to work with allies and lawmakers across the state to ensure all New Jerseyans have the basic protections Newark workers will now have.”

“Low income workers should have the same worker benefits as others,” said Raymond Ocasio, executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro. “We all can get sick, and having sick days through the Newark Earned Sick Days Ordinance and access to health care under the Affordable Care Act will only make us all better off.”

“This is a great day for Newark and for its working caregivers. We know that nearly 2 out of 3 workers ages 45 to 74 have caregiving responsibilities for an aging or other adult relative. And caregivers without earned sick days have historically been forced to make some really hard choices. Now, as a result of this measure, if they or one of their close family members get sick, they won’t have to choose between keeping their jobs or taking the time to get well or care for loved ones,” said Dave Mollen, AARP New Jersey State President.

“This Earned Sick Time ordinance is designed for my patients who must choose between taking care of themselves and preventing the spread of viruses or making sure they don’t lose a day’s wages or even their job,” said Dr. Ahmed Yousaf, Vice President for the Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU. “Because of the realities of urban life, the health of one can very quickly affect the health of all of us. By moving this bill forward, the Council is standing up for the health of all Newarkers.”

“Working families are looking to their elected officials to show leadership in this fight for what should be a basic worker’s right, and today the Newark City Council stepped up,” said Kevin Brown, state director of SEIU 32BJ. “After tonight’s vote there’s no denying it: the national momentum for earned sick days laws has broken through to New Jersey in a big way.”

“The rapid spread of paid sick days from city to city across the country shows that the public is strongly supportive of policy that improves the lives of working families,” said Andrew Friedman, Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Progressive coalitions are leading the way, hand-in-hand with elected officials who are committed to a robust economy that creates good jobs and expands our country’s middle class.”

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