De Blasio seeks paid sick leave expansion for 500,000

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speak with Esmerelda Valencia, left, in her restaurant Esmeralda's, and Leonardo Hernandez, a car wash worker from Queens, before de Blasio's officially announced an expansion of the city's paid sick leave at the Bushwick establishment. (Jan. 3, 2014) (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Any business with at least five employees would be forced to offer paid sick leave under a plan announced Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

De Blasio said that the legislation, which requires City Council approval, would expand paid sick leave of as many as five days a year to about 500,000 more New Yorkers employed by 44,000 businesses.

The current law, which takes effect in April, requires paid sick leave for companies only with at least 20 employees and eventually lowers the threshold to 15. It passed the City Council last year over the objections of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposed it as a job killer.


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De Blasio's new bill removes exemptions contained in the current law, such as for the city's 76,000 manufacturing-sector workers, half of whom don't get any paid sick days now, the mayor's office said.

"We know New Yorkers are compassionate. We know that we are a compassionate city devoted to all of our fellow citizens," he said at a rally outside Esmeralda's Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, whose owner, Esmeralda Valencia, has publicly backed paid sick leave.

Valencia says she's owned the restaurant for a decade and has always paid sick days. Her eight workers make as much as $8 an hour, or $5.15 for waitresses who earn tips.

If passed as de Blasio proposes, the sick-leave expansion would take effect April 1.

The deal, announced Friday, represented the first legislation to come from the partnership of de Blasio and Mark-Viverito, whom he backed for speaker.

Attempts to pass any sick-leave bill under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the former speaker, Christine Quinn, languished for years. She finally allowed a vote on it when it became an issue during her failed run for mayor.

"It may have taken a while, brothers and sisters, but you never gave up the fight," de Blasio said.

The latest deal had been hashed out at least a few days before the announcement, according to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who championed the original bill when she was a councilwoman.

But some council members groused that they'd learned about the deal only late Thursday night -- and then only from the press and Twitter, according to two legislative aides who spoke anonymously to avoid irking the speaker's office.

Mark-Viverito countered that her bill is nearly identical to the one that had been previously debated. She said it had been "briefly mentioned" earlier in the week during a Democratic caucus meeting this week. She called the process "extremely transparent. "

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