TAP Into Montclair

Montclair Voters To Decide Upon Proposed Sick Days Ordinance Tuesday

TAP Into Montclair — Monday, November 3, 2014

By Natalie Heard Hackett

MONTCLAIR, NJ — On Tuesday, Montclair voters will have a unique opportunity to vote on the Earned Sick Days Ordinance. The ordinance, if passed, would allow private sector workers to earn between three and five paid sick days per year to care for themselves or family members in the event of an illness.

A coalition of community leaders, workers and some business owners have launched a campaign to advocate for approval of the ballot question, while a voice of Montclair business owners have spoken up with reservations about implementation.

How Did this Proposed Ordinance Come About?

In September, a combination of unions and advocacy groups responsible for the recent wave of local earned sick days laws around New Jersey, delivered petitions to the Montclair Municipal Clerk's Office. The amount of petitions submitted were just under the threshold to initiate a special election. This was then placed before the council to decide upon approval. Expressing concerns that they did not have enough time to allow for community input, the council decided to put it up for vote by the public.

On Oct. 6, the coalition launched a voter education and field campaign around the earned sick day ballot questions in Montclair. Although earned sick days ordinances in four New Jersey cities were passed in September by their respective local city councils, Montclair and Trenton elected officials placed it on the ballot for voters to make the final decision.

Campaign literature circulated around the community states, "Almost half of Montclair's workers receive no paid sick days at their jobs. Workers shouldn't have to decide between taking a child to a doctor and losing income, and Montclair's workers shouldn't have to go to work sick or risk losing their jobs."

Participants in the effort to approve the ballot initiative include New Jersey Working Families, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Time to Care, BlueWaveNJ, New Jersey Communities United, SEIU 32BJ and CWA District 1, the Montclair NAACP, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, NOW NJ and several local elected officials.

"This legislation was crafted in consultation with national labor lawyers and experts on workplace standards. It is based on best practices from several other cities and states that have passed similar laws," said Analilia Mejia of New Jersey Working Families. San Francisco was the first city to pass such a law that covers all forms of permanent and temporary domestic workers. The law that recently went into effect in New York City did not apply to businesses with fewer than five employees, however, the City Council took measures to cover domestic workers. The New Jersey Legislature is currently crafting legislation to be introduced statewide.

The Other Side of the Debate

In response to the ballot question, a coalition of Montclair business owners have come together to express their concerns, write letters to the editor and hand out literature. The President and Vice-President of the Upper Montclair Business Association, Diane Esty and Holly Felber, have been vocal in speaking at Council Meetings to express their concerns over the proposed ordinance.

They have joined forces with a group of other business owners to push back on the ordinance.

Business owners like Mike Shortt weighed in, saying, "While universal sick leave is a laudable goal, we have significant questions regarding this ordinance. While we are generally in support of passage of a sensible local or state law to address this important topic, the proposed ordinance is not sensible." Shortt went further to express concerns over Montclair residents' lack of input into the crafting of the ordinance, possible costs associated with enforcing it and the size of employers affected.

On Tuesday, voters will make the ultimate decision as to what is best for Montclair. Polls are open from 6 am – 8 pm.

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