The Montclair Times

Coalition Calls For Paid Sick Time In Montclair

The Montclair Times — Thursday, August 7, 2014

By Andrew Segedin
Staff Writer
The Montclair Times

A coalition seeking to secure sick days for employees of private businesses has submitted petitions signed by 1,654 local voters to place an "earned sick days" ordinance on Montclair's ballot this November.

The coalition, which includes Bluewave NJ, New Jersey Working Families and New Jersey Citizen Action, also seeks to enact earned sick days laws in East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, Paterson and Trenton. On Monday, East Orange's city council introduced a "sick days" ordinance on first reading, according to organizers. Newark and Jersey City already have approved similar laws.

The proposed ordinance for Montclair would resemble the one passed in Newark in January, the coalition stated in a release. The ordinance would allow private-sector workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. People who work in businesses with 10 or more employees could earn five paid sick days per year. Those working in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be able to earn three sick days per year.

Employees who directly connect with members of the public, such as food service or daycare workers, would be eligible to earn five days regardless of company size, according to the coalition.

Bluewave NJ, headquartered in Montclair, has been supportive of the statewide effort, according to President Marcia Marley. Canvassers, whom residents may have seen walking around Montclair in recent weeks, were organized by Bluewave NJ, Marley told The Montclair Times.

Using national figures, Yarrow Willman-Cole of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work estimated that of Montclair's 16,438 private sector workers, 7,068 would be impacted by the ordinance.

Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of organizing and strategic program development for New Jersey Citizen Action, said that about two-thirds of employees who would be eligible for sick days through the proposed ordinances work in the food service, retail or childcare fields.

According to New Jersey Working Families Executive Director Analilia Mejia, these workers are predominantly women earning low wages. Mejia said that, by helping local women and mothers, the ordinance would also aid local families.

The ordinance would enhance public health, the coalition leaders said.

Given the large number of restaurants and retail businesses in Montclair, employees who are unable to take sick days off could potentially pass their ailments to customers, the organizers said.

Essex County District 5 Freeholder Brendan Gill, who resides in and represents Montclair, said that he became involved with the ordinance when it was introduced in Newark and he sponsored a corresponding resolution at the county level.

Gill echoed organizers' comments on the health implications of the ordinance, saying that he didn't think workers should have to choose between getting rest and missing a day's pay or going to work sick.

"It really ... is a commonsense way to protect the working-class people that are the backbone of our small-business economy," Gill said.

If placed on the ballot, Gill said that he is confident that it would be supported in Montclair.

To get onto the ballot, organizers would need to submit 1,035 valid signatures prior to the filing deadline of Aug. 15, Township Clerk Linda Wanat said.

While a special election could be mandated with 1,552 signatures, coalition organizers said that they were not interested in adding a costly special election to Montclair's calendar.

The ordinance could be enacted prior to November should Montclair's Township Council, like its East Orange counterpart, introduce an ordinance itself.

Mayor Robert Jackson, who was at the petition drop-off this past Tuesday, said that he and his council colleagues had not yet discussed the possibility of introducing an ordinance. Jackson said that members of local business community would also have to be contacted.

Given the number of signatures brought to the clerk's office, all such conversations may be moot, according to Jackson, as the ordinance appears likely to be on the November ballot.

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