The Times, Trenton

Trenton Residents To Vote On Whether To Require City Businesses To Provide Paid Sick Days

The Times of Trenton — November 1, 2014

By Jenna Pizzi / Times of Trenton

TRENTON —The question of small businesses being required to provide paid sick days to their employees has become a statewide issue as legislation advances on the requirement, but Trenton residents will be asked on Tuesday if the mandate should be instituted for businesses in the city.

The ballot question asks city residents if they support the City of Trenton requiring private-sector employers to earn one hour of paid sick time for each 30 hours worked. Under the proposal, those that provide food service, child care or home health care or who work for companies with 10 or more employees would be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. All other employees would be entitled to up to 24 hours each year.

The question appears on the ballot as a result of a petition by a coalition of state organizations in favor of the requirement who brought more than 2,200 signatures in favor of the measure to the city clerk in August. City Council voted to have the measure put on the ballot for voters to decide.

Opponents of the requirement say it is bad for small businesses, especially at a time when Trenton is struggling to attract business.

"It is an absolutely unnecessary intrusion to private business," said Robert Prunetti, president and CEO of the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce. Prunetti said he believes businesses should not be required to provide benefits, but be able to work out with their employees how best to handle a situation in which they need a day off.

"Policies like this reduce our ranking and make New Jersey less attractive to businesses," said John Harmon, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Proponents of the measure, which include organizations like New Jersey Working Families, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, New Jersey Communities United and several labor unions, say that by providing these days to employees the entire public benefits.

"This is about strengthening the community," said Seth Hahn, a representative for the Communications Workers of America, who has been campaigning in Trenton for residents to vote in favor of the measure.

Hahn said the issue has been in notifying residents that there is even a question that they can vote on.

"We have really been focusing on ensuring that people know that it is at the very end of the ballot," Hahn said.

Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said he is supportive of the legislation, but also sees the concern from small businesses.

"We need to find some other ways to help balance that out with a small business person," Jackson said. "While I do support it I think there is a way that we can find some other incentives to help (business owners) be more financially stable while they make, what I think, at most times are minimal contributions."

Jackson said he will not hire additional employees for enforcement if the measure passes.

"We will not actively go out and seek additional staff to do this," Jackson said. "We will have to find ways to creatively incorporate it into the staff we have now."

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