The Trentonian

Activists Petition For Ballot Question On Paid Sick Leave

The Trentonian — Tuesday, August 5, 2014

By Carlos Avila / The Trentonian

TRENTON — Worker unions and community organizing groups want to make Trenton businesses give their employees up to five days of paid sick leave to care for themselves or a relative according to petitions submitted to the mayor's office on Tuesday.

Activists have collected enough signed petitions, which if validated by the City Clerk, can force a ballot question in the November election asking voters to either support or reject the paid sick leave policy.

"This would be a local policy that would require businesses in Trenton to give their employees a minimum number pay sick days so they can stay home when they or a family member is sick," said Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action.

SEIU, CWA, New Jersey Working Family Alliances and New Jersey Citizen Action have been leading this effort in over five cities across New Jersey. According to the Liberal leaning coalition, Jersey City and Newark have enacted similar policies. In addition to Trenton, Irvington, Montclair, Passaic, and Paterson are target cities.

"Today New Jerseyans around the state have delivered an unmistakable message to their elected leaders: earned sick days should be a basic workplace right," said Analilia Mejia executive director of New Jersey Working Families.

But Trenton small business owners are not all convinced that this is good for the local economy.

"We work with our employees when they need off for health reasons but to impose this law on us in addition to the many other taxes, fees and expenses we have makes it difficult to run a business in this city," said Vicente Barrientos a local restaurant owner.

"A policy like this could be workable for large corporations, but for small businesses like ours it could mean raising prices or hiring one less person," said a local bodega owner who did not want to be identified.

Under the terms of the city's organizing Faulkner Act, the petitions delivery will trigger an automatic process that will place an earned sick days law on the November ballot. City Council can either choose to pass the law without substantial amendment by a simple majority vote or allow voters to approve or disapprove it during the November election.

According to supporters of the ordinance, if all six targeted cities enact this ordinance over 144,000 workers would benefit. The ordinance allows private-sector workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

All six targeted municipalities are cities with a large minority population. No significant suburban municipalities are target to enact an earned sick days law.

Trenton Mayor Jackson gladly accepted the petitions and offered to submit them personally to the city clerk.

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