Supporters of expanded paid sick leave pack the City Council chambers as members vote in favor of the new bill Wednesday. Credit: William Alatriste/NYC Council
The City Council overwhelmingly and yet hesitatingly approved a new bill that secures paid sick leave for an additional 355,000 working New Yorkers.
Forty six members voted for the law while five were opposed. But even those who said they supported the law offered caveats about the bill's side effects on business owners.
Most of the Council members agreed employees across the city need paid sick. However, they also expressed concern for the law's impact on the city's small businesses.
Wednesday's bill, which passed 46 to 5, overrides an earlier bill passed last year under former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. And while the previous version took three years to pass the Council, the new bill was pushed through within a month's time.
The new bill would go into effect on April 1 and requires any business with five or more employees to offer workers up to five paid sick days. It also allows workers to take time off to care for sick grandchildren, grandparents and siblings.
During the vote, Council members were appreciative of a change in the bill that grants businesses with more than five but less than 19 employees a six-month grace period before the law is enforced.
The bill also also includes a two-year statute of limitations to for workers to file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, the agency now responsible for tracking and investigating violations.
Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. noted that the bill was never discussed by the Council's small business committee, which he chairs. Local businesses have approached him with their anxiety, he added.
"They worry that the requirements of this law will not be timely and thoroughly communicated," Cornegy said, "and that they will not be supported in the maintaining of the record keeping system the law demands."
Councilwoman Inez Dickens of Manhattan called paid sick leave necessary and needed, but that she was fearful of a new law not fully vetted by the members.
"We're expanding it without having really negotiated or really talked to small businesses that have five, six, seven employees that will be impacted," she said.
Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican who voted for the previous Council's negotiated version, urged his colleagues to vote according to their conscience — doubts and all.
"If you believe that this is a bad bill and that this is a job killing piece of legislation, then I’m urging you to join me in voting no," he said.
Council members Steven Matteo and Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx and Paul Vallone of Queens joined Ulrich in opposing the bill.
But Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refuted the notion that the bill moved sped through the new Council, which has 21 new members who weren't on the 51-seat body when the first bill passed.
"This is a conversation that's been happing for over three years," she said, noting the negotiations with business leaders last year. "We've heard the debate before. We've had many hearings on it, many conversations on it. We're just bringing back the legislation as originally presented."
Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio stood with many Council members on a Brooklyn sidewalk to announce the new administration's commitment to an expanded paid sick leave bill. After today's vote, it will be the first law passed by the new mayor.
"The paid sick leave legislation is the first law I will have the privilege of signing as mayor, and it represents the first of many steps our city will take toward creating one New York, where everyone rises together," de Blasio wrote in a statement.