The Times, Trenton

Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson Says He Will Push Forward Petitions For Paid Sick Leave

The Times of Trenton — Tuesday, August 5, 2014

By Jenna Pizzi / Times of Trenton

Diego Arias, a health policy advocate for NJ Citizen Action, answers questions about Obamacare in November in Elizabeth. Photo by Ed Murray / The Star-Ledger
On the steps of Trenton city hall, from left, Dena Mottola Jaborska, Director of Organizing and Strategic Program Development and executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, Analilla Mejia, executive director of the Working Families Party in New Jersey and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman distribute over 2,200 petitions to be presented to Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson in favor of a statewide bill that would cover paid sick days for all NJ workers. Trenton was one of five city governments visited around the state, the others being, Irvington, Montclair, Passaic and Patterson. Photo by Michael Mancuso / The Times.

TRENTON — Mayor Eric Jackson accepted more than 2,200 signed petitions from city residents today seeking an ordinance that would require private-sector employers to provide paid sick days to workers.

The group of canvassers collected signatures over the past few months and handed the stack of papers to Jackson.

"I will take them on behalf of the city and forward them to the clerk and move them forward," Jackson said.

Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, said the petitions ask that once the signatures are reviewed by the city clerk, City Council would be asked to pass the law as an ordinance itself, or to put it on the November ballot.

The organizations behind the petition were driving duplicate efforts in Irvington, Montclair, Passaic and Paterson today. The coalition includes the Working Families group, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Time to Care Coalition and New Jersey Communities United.

The coalition was set to turn in petitions in East Orange, but Monday night the city council there voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance to mandate paid sick days for workers.

The proposed Trenton ordinance, modeled after one adopted in Newark in January, would require private businesses to give full- and part-time employees paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.

"We support working families and anything we can do to move that agenda forward to make families whole," Jackson said.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who also is running for Congress, was at the event and showed her support for the sick-day legislation and Jackson's leadership on the issue.

"Voters understand that no workers should ever be forced to choose between their paycheck and their health," Mejia said in a statement. "We all get sick, so we need the time to care for ourselves and our families when illness strikes."

The coalition is the same as those behind successful ballot initiatives in Newark and Jersey City in the past few months.

A similar, statewide bill (S758), sponsored by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), was introduced in January.

As proposed, the ordinances would allow workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. In businesses with 10 or more employees, five paid sick days can be earned per year. For those with fewer than 10 employees, workers would be eligible to earn three paid sick days each year, said Dena Mattola Jaborska, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

Robert Prunetti, executive director of the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce, said chambers of commerce throughout the state are opposed to forcing private employers to give their employees paid sick leave.

"I think it's an intrusion on the private sector," he said. "These are items that ought to be negotiated between employers and employees."

Prunetti warned that such a measure would place an added burden on private businesses and could drive them away at a time when the city is trying to redevelop and grow.

"It's going to force more businesses out of the city of Trenton," he said. "It's absolutely the wrong policy for the city of Trenton especially at this juncture."

Jaborska said she is proud of this action, going municipality by municipality to build support for employers paying for sick days.

"This is an unprecedented grassroots campaign to bring earned sick days laws to a diverse set of communities in New Jersey," she said.

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