For years, advocates of immigrant workers have called for a municipal law that requires companies with more than five employees to give them five sick days per year. This law is necessary for humane reasons: Every worker needs time to get better from an illness or care for their children until they get better. It is also a matter of public health: No one wants their grandpa’s caregiver or the person serving them lunch to work with a highly contagious flu. And it is a financial matter: When employees lose their jobs because they couldn’t go to work for being sick, our families, communities and the city suffer.
This is clear and the reason for a bill that has garnered huge support from a majority of council members, except the most powerful one: Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Quinn, a Manhattan councilwoman who is vying to become the city’s first female mayor, has single-handedly stopped the bill in its tracks. She prevented it from being included in the Council’s voting calendar, mentioning concerns that the cost of this law might cause business closures and job losses. However, Quinn has ignored strong evidence that shows the opposite.
What’s going on, then? Apparently, Quinn is more sympathetic to the concerns of the business sector–whose support is very good during an election season–than to the needs of workers. Also, Quinn is trying to avoid upsetting Mayor Bloomberg on this matter. The mayor, often a business ally, also opposes the bill.
Pressure for the basic right to have sick days is growing. Yesterday some prominent women, inspired by the voice of feminist Gloria Steinem, urged Quinn to change her position regarding an issue that affects so many working moms.
The Council Speaker has shown she can evolve on these issues. Last week, after years of pressure from advocates of the working poor, Quinn proposed a reduction of fines on street vendors (going against the mayor).
The hearing about the paid sick days bill will take place next month. Christine Quinn must stop putting her interests above those of the legislative and democratic process and allow voting on this bill.