New York City's multi-year battle over paid sick leave may soon be at an end. On Thursday night, activists and city council members in America's most populous city achieved a deal which would mandate workplaces with 15 or more full-time workers to provide paid sick days to their employees.
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said that the passage of mandatory sick leave in New York could give momentum to similar legislation across the country.
"With paid sick days in place in Connecticut, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland, Oregon, and coming soon to New York City and, we hope, Philadelphia we may be at the tipping point in the effort to make this humane, common sense policy available to millions more workers," she said.
Connecticut became the first state to pass a paid sick leave bill in 2011. With a population roughly 2.3 times the size of Connecticut's, New York City would still be the largest jurisdiction in the country to have such legislation on the books. The city council of another major American city, Philadelphia, is currently locked in a battle over mandatory sick days.
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she supports federal sick leave legislation. Democrats in the House and Senate have proposed the "Healthy Families Act," which, according to the text of both bills, would require employers "to permit employees to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick time including paid time for family care." In a 2010 poll, the National Opinion Research Center found that 86% of respondents supported mandatory paid sick leave legislation.
Once paid sick leave passes in New York City, it will signal the end of a political fight which stretched over three years. Labor unions and progressive advocacy groups aggressively pushed the legislation, which City Council Speaker Christine Quinn blocked from ever coming to a vote. To now strike a deal on the legislation was a major concession from the Democratic mayoral hopeful and, in the words of Friday's New York Times, "a raw display of political muscle" by unions, pro-sick leave groups, and their allies.
“This is a great day for New York’s working families," said Working Familes Party deputy director Bill Lipton, "A million New Yorkers will no longer face a choice between taking care of a sick child and a day’s pay. And it’s now illegal for any worker to be fired for missing a few days work because of illness.”