Fulop Backs Mandate For Paid Sick Time

NJ.com — Thursday, September 5, 2013

By Terrence T. McDonald / The Jersey Journal

Jersey City could soon join a host of other big cities in the nation, including Portland and San Francisco, by mandating most employers provide paid sick time to their workers, under legislation proposed by Mayor Steve Fulop.

The measure, expected to be considered by the City Council at its regular meeting next week, would require all businesses with 10 or more workers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually.

"A healthy employee is a more productive employee, and that is really kind of the goal," Fulop told The Jersey Journal. "It's a basic, economic justice, human dignity type of thing."

The plan, which has already been panned by members of the business community, is a markedly liberal one from a mayor whose critics allege he is a conservative Republican posing as a Democrat for political gain.

Progressive groups are hailing Fulop.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of watchdog group New Jersey Citizen Action, said the proposal would "provide real economic security to many low-wage worker."

Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, said mandating paid sick time is a "common-sense policy whose time has clearly come."

"This is an excellent starting point, and we will continue to work with our allies on the state level to ensure that all of New Jersey's workers don't have to choose between getting paid and getting well," MacInnes said.

Under the measure, similar to one approved by New York City's council in May over the objections of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, any worker would bank one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours, or five days, annually.

The worker could use the time to care for their own needs or for a family member's.

They would begin earning the sick time immediately, but wouldn't be able to use it for 90 days after being hired.

A worker would even be able to loan sick time to another employee.

Not everyone supports the proposed Jersey City ordinance.

Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano, a frequent Fulop critic, said he opposes the move. Most employers will pay for their employees to take off if they have medical issues, Boggiano said.

"I don't think it's right," he said. "Government should stay out of small business."

Raju Patel, president of the Jersey City Asian Merchant Association, also panned Fulop's proposal, saying small businesses won't be able to afford it "in this economy."

"I don't like anything being forced," said Patel, who runs a Newark Avenue travel agency that now has no employees.

"This is a free country, my friend."

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