City Council passes paid sick leave bill

Supporters of the Paid Sick Leave legislation attend

Supporters of the Paid Sick Leave legislation attend a vote for the bill at the City Council chamber in Manhattan. (May 08, 2013). (Credit: Charles Eckert)

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The City Council passed a bill Wednesday that will require businesses with 20 or more people to provide them at least five paid sick days a year starting next April.

The council voted 45 to 3 in support of the Earned Sick Time Act. The vote tally guarantees that the council can override the expected veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The bill is to take effect April 1, 2014. Eighteen months later, that law will extend to businesses with 15 or more workers.

The measure aims to remove a heavy burden on more than a million New Yorkers who had to choose between their health and their jobs, according to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "The council's legislation provides this time to people who need the access to it," she said.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer introduced the bill in 2009; however, several business groups, including the chambers of commerce from all five boroughs, said it would hurt mom and pop business owners who couldn't afford to give the time off.

After parts of the bill were revised, such as the minimum number of employees, several groups like the Queens and Brooklyn chambers of commerce changed their position.

There are safeguards to prevent the bill from hurting struggling businesses since it will only be enacted if the city's economy is sound, according to Quinn.

Quinn said the Independent Budget Office will determine this by seeing whether the City Coincident Economic Index is at or above its January 2012 level.

"The argument over paid sick time was always about common sense and fairness," Brewer said.

The bill still has critics, the biggest being the mayor, who has repeatedly said he would veto the measure because it hurts small businesses. His office didn't issue any statement following the vote.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio criticized Quinn, his opponent in the Democratic primary for the mayoral election, for not bringing the bill to a vote earlier. "Today is a step forward, but it's one that has come years late because of Speaker Quinn's obstruction," he said in a statement.

Quinn said she was initially against the bill when it was first introduced because the economy was still in bad shape and now was the perfect time to introduce the measure. "We did this in a way that was fair to small businesses," she said.

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