Hudson Reporter

Fulop 'Sick Day' Proposal Draws Labor Support; Business Groups Reviewing Plan

The Hudson Reporter — Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mayor Steven Fulop will ask the City Council to consider an earned sick time measure that would allow employees at Jersey City-based businesses with 10 or more workers to earn up to five paid sick days a year. Employees of businesses with nine workers or less would accrue five unpaid days.

Employees would be able to use the days for care for themselves or an ailing family member in the event of an illness, medical emergency, or medical treatment.

The council could consider the proposal as early as this week.

"This is an issue that impacts the most vulnerable in our society and it is the right thing to do," Fulop said in a press statement last week. "In New Jersey, some 1.2 million workers — that's more than 1 in 3 of us — do not earn paid sick days."

The proposal has already received strong support from labor groups. The Hudson County Chamber of Commerce said its members are still reviewing the plan.

"A worker should never have to choose between health and pay," said Kevin Brown, state director of 32BJ SEIU. "Mayor Fulop...should be commended for introducing paid sick leave legislation to make our workforce healthier and more productive. Making sure that workers can take a day off when they are sick is one of the best ways to increase productivity and promote a healthy and welcoming work environment."

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action and a spokesperson for the statewide Time to Care Coalition, said, "Every worker should be able to recover from an illness or take care of a sick family member without risking their livelihoods. Mayor Fulop's proposal will provide real economic security to many low-wage workers, and it will also protect the public health while strengthening the city's economy as a whole. We look forward to working with the Mayor to make sure that the rights of all Jersey City's workers are protected." Small businesses are, however, concerned about what the proposal might mean for them.Maria L. Nieves, president and chief executive officer of the Hudson County Chamber of commerce told the Reporter, "We are still reviewing the proposal. We have asked our members to look at it and give us their feedback. Right now we don't know enough about it and what impact it will have, so we have not taken an official position. But we are looking at similar proposals that have been considered in other cities and what the impact was there. There is some concern because there are costs associated with these kinds of proposals and, in general, we would rather see small businesses determine what works best for them, rather than having the government determine that for them."

Fulop's office, however, argued last week that without the ability to earn paid sick days, workers typically lose wages — and possibly even their jobs — when they get sick or require medical treatment.

"In Jersey City we know that a healthy employee is a more productive employee, which in turn generates more value," Fulop said in a statement. "There is a strong business case for a minimum sick days standard; however, more and more businesses understand the value of providing good workplaces for their employees, including earned sick leave benefits. We want Jersey City to be business friendly, as is evident with our new tax abatement policy, but also working family friendly which is the goal of this legislation"

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