Four years ago, A Better Balance began addressing a significant problem in New York City: more than one million workers in New York City did not have any paid sick time to care for themselves or sick loved ones. For these New Yorkers, taking time off from work to recover from illness, care for a sick family member, or get necessary medical care has meant loss of pay, retaliation like the loss of a good shift, or even being fired. Fortunately, after years of activism, this troubling reality will soon change!
On May 8, 2013, the New York City Council passed the Earned Sick Time Act, which A Better Balance helped to draft, by a veto-proof majority of 45-3! Although Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bill, the City Council voted 47-4 to override the mayor's veto and pass the bill into law on June 27, 2013. Sherry Leiwant, A Better Balance’s Co-President and Co-Founder, was of the key negotiators who reached a compromise with the City Council Speaker on the legislation. Click here for an overview of the law. The Earned Sick Time Act will ensure that New Yorkers cannot be fired for taking a day off when they or certain family members are sick and will ultimately require all employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 5 paid sick days per year. The law will go into effect on April 1, 2014.
The NYC Earned Sick Time Act will ultimately provide paid sick time to approximately 1 million working New Yorkers who currently have no access to paid sick time when they or their family members are ill. Furthermore, the law will ensure that workers—even in the smallest of businesses—cannot be fired for taking a sick day.
For the 3.4 million private sector workers in New York City, the Earned Sick Time Act will create a legal right to a minimum amount of sick time that an employer cannot withdraw and ensure that workers can use this time to care for ill loved ones.
This law will have a disproportionately positive impact on low-wage workers. Government statistics on access to paid sick time have revealed large inequities among workers depending on income. In the New York metropolitan region, 84% of workers in the top quarter of wage earners currently receive paid sick time, but only 37% of workers in the bottom quarter of wage earners do.
Throughout the coming year, A Better Balance plans to educate working New Yorkers about their rights under the Earned Sick Time Act. We are also looking forward to working with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs—the agency that will enforce the law—on the development of rules and regulations regarding earned sick time.
Since 2009, A Better Balance has worked with City Council Member Gale Brewer on legislation that would address the widespread lack of paid sick time in New York City. In addition to our work drafting the legislation, we helped to build and lead a tremendous coalition dedicated to passage of a paid sick time law. Through meetings, events, and rallies, the campaign for paid sick time grew. Countless union leaders, health care practitioners, public health experts, women leaders, parent groups, economists, LGBT advocates, and small business owners ultimately endorsed the campaign to provide paid sick time. Together, A Better Balance and members of the New York City Paid Sick Days Coalition held dozens of events and actions to demonstrate the broad and diverse support for paid sick time in New York City. Through our rallies and actions, we emphasized that paid sick time is a public health issue, a women’s issue, a moral issue, an economic justice issue, a parent’s issue, an LGBT issue, an economic justice issue, and a racial justice issue. Although not an exhaustive list, click here to learn more about some of our events around paid sick time in 2011 and 2012.
Despite widespread public support and a veto-proof majority of City Council Members signed on as co-sponsors to the Earned Sick Time Act, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced in October 2010 that she would not allow a vote on the Paid Sick Time Act. However, Speaker Quinn promised to review her decision on paid sick time every two months. In response to business concerns and to ensure that small businesses are not burdened, the coalition made numerous business-friendly amendments to the Paid Sick Time Act in October 2012. On March 22, 2013, the City Council held a hearing on the amended paid sick days bill, and A Better Balance's Sherry Leiwant testified in support. Following this hearing, Sherry and a small group successfully reached a compromise with the Speaker on a strong paid sick time law.
On August 4, 2012, the New York Times Editorial Board called on the New York City Council to pass paid sick days legislation: "American workers should have paid sick leave, and New York City could set a standard for the rest of the nation. Workers in the city deserve a sensible and humane sick-leave benefit now." The Times published a second editorial in support of paid sick days legislation in New York City on October 14, 2012, and a third editorial in support of paid sick days legislation in New York City on February 26, 2013. Read the first editorial here, the second editorial here, and the third editorial here! After A Better Balance helped to negotiate the compromise bill, we were quoted in the New York Times article on the agreement. The Times also printed an editorial in support of the agreement.
In addition to the prominent support of the New York Times, the paid sick time campaign received significant op-ed and editorial support. Some of the highlights include:
The New York City Paid Sick Time Campaign has generated tremendous media coverage. For a media roundup of the campaign, view our press page:
The New York City Paid Sick Days Coalition drew support from a wide range of groups and leaders:
Polling data on the issue of paid sick time has shown huge support in New York City:
To learn more background regarding the need for paid sick time in New York City, please see Sick in the City: What the Lack of Paid Leave Means for Working New Yorkers (A Better Balance and CSS-NY, October 2009). A January 2012 update to "Sick in the City" is available here.
According to a comprehensive report released by the Economic Policy Institute in October 2012, the New York City Paid Sick Time Act will not significantly raise cost for New York City businesses.
Additional research on the need for and benefits of paid sick time in New York City: