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NEW YORK — After almost four years of negotiations and months of political bickering, about one million working New Yorkers are a step closer to gaining paid sick days.
The City Council approved a bill today that will require many businesses to give sick workers time off. It passed 45 to 3.
The bill is much transformed from the one originally introduced in 2010 and kept from a vote by Speaker Christine Quinn until a near insurrection from her colleagues and criticism from advocates threatened to become a political liability as she seeks the Democratic nomination for mayor.
Under the bill approved by the Council, eligible workers would be guaranteed a minimum of five paid sick days. The bill also says that no one in New York can be fired for taking an unpaid sick day. Whereas the original bill would have forced businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick days, the version passed today applies to those with 20 or more employees.
The law would go into effect in April of next year, with the possibility of expanding to businesses with 15 or more employees in late 2015, depending on the law's success. Full-time and part-time workers would be protected under the law, although it excludes interns and seasonal workers.
The City Council has once again delayed a vote on paid sick leave despite an earlier goal of a vote tomorrow.
After working to move the controversial bill to the Council floor for three years, Manhattan City Councilwoman Gale Brewer said yesterday that she hopes the bill will come to a vote in early May after negotiating the final language.
She added that only small, auxiliary verbs like "may" or "must."
"I think we'll be fine," Brewer said. "I still feel ecstatic."
Whatever language is eventually adopted into the bill is a result of weeks of negotiation between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, labor advocates and the city's business leaders.
After three years of waiting and debating, Councilwoman Gale Brewer said the controversial paid sick days bill could go to a vote as early as next week.
"April 25 -- that's the goal," Brewer said this afternoon. She said the language was still being finalized, but was confident it would go to a vote sooner rather than later.
The bill, Intro 0097, would be introduced through the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, which will convene the day before the bill heads to the Council's floor. It already has several cosponsors, including Speaker Christine Quinn, who held back a vote on the measure since Brewer first introduced the bill in 2010.
Quinn came under pressure in recent months as supporters of paid sick leave -- including unions and fellow mayoral candidates, most notably Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson -- demanded that the bill go to a vote. Quinn had long held that she didn't oppose the spirit of the bill, rather that the city's economy was too fragile to expect small business to offer paid sick leave to their employees.
However, despite initial opposition from chambers of commerce from all five boroughs and various business leaders, Quinn was able to draw up a compromise version of the bill that would not got into effect until next year, and only if it meets a minimum measure of a financial index released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democratic candidate for mayor, hammered out a deal to move forward legislation that would require many businesses to give paid sick leave to their employees. She made the announcement Friday with supporters and leaders of local chambers of commerce. Quinn had refused to bring the bill to a floor vote for two years. But as the campaign to get the bill passed dovetailed with the mayoral race and a possible revolt from fellow Council members, she met with elected officials, union leaders and supporters of the bill to negotiate a deal.
The result was a seemingly more business-friendly bill that includes a provision that would delay the implementation of the bill if the economy worsens by the time it goes into effect in April 2014. Though acknowledging the effort to address concerns with the bill, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would veto it anyway. Quinn has said she has the votes to override him.
The New York Times' Editorial Board called the deal "good news, although it will take at least a year for most employees to enjoy a basic benefit widely available elsewhere." The New York Post wrote: "The best way to improve life for city workers is not by imposing politically motivated diktats on employers. It’s by giving business the freedom it needs to create a dynamic, expanding economy."
Last night, Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the prime sponsor of the sick leave bill, sent out an email thanking the speaker. She also disclosed the following "outline" of the bill:
• Businesses with 20 or more workers will have to provide five paid sick days beginning April 1, 2014.
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While Mayor Michael Bloomberg took Sunday morning airtime to discuss his new $12 million gun control ad campaign, four Democratic mayoral candidates touched upon a range of issues, including the New York Police Department and paid sick leave.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Councilman Sal Alabanese, and current and former Comptrollers John Liu and Bill Thompson, respectively, all appeared on MSNBC’s "Up with Chris Hayes."
The four candidates took up five segments of the Sunday morning cable talkshow, with each candidate doing their best to distinguish themselves from the others as they reiterate their opposition to the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping, questionioning and frisking people on the street. Liu was the only firm opponent to the policy, with his fellow candidates adopting nuanced, critical stances on the subject.
City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn hasn't changed her mind about paid sick leave.An unidentified party faked Quinn's mayoral campaign website and posted a message claiming she now supports a vote on legislation that would mandate paid sick days for employers.
But Quinn said on Wednesday that she hadn't changed her position on paid sick leave — and lamented the fake website.
"I think it's unfortunate that someone would create a website that's a replica of my campaign website when it's not," she said.
Quinn has long held that she supports the spirit of the bill, currently being pushed again by Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, but won't let it go to a vote. The Council speaker has consistently argued that the city's economy is currently too delicate for struggling business to comply with the proposal.The fake website -- quinn4ny.org -- was an almost perfect copy Quinn's official homepage at quinn4ny.com, except for the same e-mail message being repeated on the impostor website.
"As mayor of New York, I pledge to represent all New Yorkers, not just the wealthiest one percent or those with back-channel access to politicians like me," said the message about paid sick leave, which was also emailed. "It's time for an up-or-down vote on paid sick days."
New York City Councilman James Sanders Jr. is imploring Speaker Christine Quinn to bring a stalled paid sick leave bill to a vote. "There is nothing harder to stop than an idea whose time has come," the councilman said in a recent interview with the Gotham Gazette.