Editorial: Paid leave makes NYC less competitive

New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn joins fellow

New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn joins fellow City leaders and LGBT organizations in the conversation about "stop and frisk" during a press conference at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. (June. 5, 2012) (Credit: Nancy Borowick)

New York City has never knocked itself out to make life easy for the 200,000 small-business owners struggling to make a decent living within the five boroughs.

Say a restaurateur puts out a small sidewalk chalkboard showcasing daily specials more than three feet from her door. She could be zapped with a fine. Say a shopkeeper has metal sidewalk cellar doors that aren't skid-resistant. Boom. He must pay up.

Yet street vendors with minimal overhead can wheel up and siphon off customers. The long story short is that storefront operators are often left to struggle -- on their own -- in a city that's a hothouse for rules and red tape.

Now the City Council has come up with a deal to mandate that companies with 15 workers or more must give workers five paid sick days a year.

An irritated Mayor Michael Bloomberg will slap it down with a veto, and the council will override him with ringing paeans to the dignity of low-wage workers. But New Yorkers should apply a healthy dash of skepticism as lusty idealism seeps from council chambers.

At bottom the fight is a hard-boiled shoving match between unions and small local employers -- while a herd of mayoral candidates vies fiercely for labor support.

It's hard to argue that workers -- any workers -- are unworthy of sick pay. But in a town with a python-like propensity for regulation, the idea is problematic.

It would be nice to imagine that businesses might solve the problem on their own. Who wants some guy with the flu infecting the entire day shift on a loading dock? Who wants someone with a cold working the cash register or making a sandwich in a deli? What employer wants a workforce that's constantly churning for lack of benefits?

Well, don't wait for an epiphany. Small businesses are spread thin by a weak economy, and new costs could remain a deal breaker. Bloomberg's reasoning makes sense.

"There's never a good time to make New York City less competitive," he said. The city needs strategies to grow entry-level jobs, not shrink their number.


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