The Montclair Times

Montclair Voters Support Sick Time Ordinance By Three To One Margin

The Montclair Times — Wednesday, November 5, 2014

By Andrew Segedin
Staff Writer
The Montclair Times

Paid sick time for private-sector workers is coming to Montclair, after garnering overwhelming support in voting booths across the municipality during this past Tuesday's election.

According to preliminary results released by Township Clerk Linda Wanat, the ballot question approving an ordinance requiring paid sick time for private-sector employees won in every municipal voting district and garnered nearly three-quarters of the vote, winning by a margin of 5,878 to 2,014.

Here's the tally by ward:

Advocacy organizations including BlueWave NJ of Montclair, New Jersey Citizen Action, and New Jersey Working Families gathered about 1,600 petition signatures to place the question on the ballot.

After the majority of the petitions were verified, the Montclair Township Council had the option of voting on and approving the ordinance itself, but opted to leave the decision to the voters.

Under the proposed ordinance, which resembles an ordinance approved in Newark earlier this year, private-sector workers in the township would be able to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Individuals in businesses with 10 or more employees would be able to earn up to five paid sick days per year. People working in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be able to earn three sick days per year.

Employees with direct contact with members of the public, such as food-service or daycare workers, are eligible to earn five days regardless of the company's size.

A similar question was also on the ballot in Trenton and was expected to be approved when The Montclair Times went to press yesterday.

Township Attorney Ira Karasick told The Times that the ordinance will go into effect as soon as Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin certifies the election results, likely early next week.

The ordinance, with limited exceptions such as collective bargaining agreements, will not be enforced by the municipal government until 120 days after passage.

In the meantime, Karasick said, he and Acting Township Manager Timothy Stafford will see how the township will enact and enforce the ordinance.

What they're Saying

"I think the polls showed that morality favored," BlueWaveNJ President Marcia Marley said Tuesday night during a post-election celebration at Manny's Diner on Church Street.

Marley said she was not surprised by the wide margin by which Montclairites voted in favor of the ordinance. The challenge in generating votes, Marley said, was not limited solely to educating the public on the issue itself, but by making sure voters knew where to find the question on the ballot. Some voters were unaware that they had to move across the ballot to find the question, according to Marley.

The BlueWaveNJ president said she felt as though the ordinance will be a win/win for Montclair, describing the question as a public health issue that will have a tangible impact.

"I think this is a basic human right: stay home and get well," Marley said. "It's what Montclair stands for."

New Jersey Working Families Director Analilia Mejia, who attended the celebration, highlighted the fact that Montclairites voted on the question at a significantly higher rate than is usual. Voter drop-off from the top of the ballot to the questions can be as much as 50 percent in a typical election, Mejia said.

Last night, the drop-off was about 25 percent in Montclair, Mejia said.

Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, a supporter of the ordinance, has touted President Theodore Roosevelt's workers-rights position from a century ago as reason to vote "yes" for the ordinance. During the celebration Tuesday night, Russo half-jokingly credited "Teddy Roosevelt Republicans" for helping the ordinance win by such a large margin.

Newly-elected Freeholder-at-Large Brendan Gill of Montclair campaigned in support of the question. Gill, who is president of the Montclair Democratic County Organization, told The Times yesterday that he, too, was not surprised by the margin in which Montclair voters approved the question.

"There was definitely room for debate about the ordinance," Gill said. "I think, ultimately, it was the right thing to do for the workers who comprise the backbone of the businesses in our community."

Montclair Center BID Executive Director Luther Flurry told The Times that there was little discussion about the proposed ordinance leading up to the election, with the exception of several members of the business community ardently favoring the ordinance and several others ardently opposed.

"The voters have voted and I know that Montclair businesses will respect their decision," Flurry said. "It's clear that there will be an increase in costs for some businesses. Fundamentally, Montclair is an expensive place to do business.

"Our challenge is to make sure that the benefits of doing business exceed the cost."

In an email, Upper Montclair Business Association President Diane Esty wrote that she was concerned by the potential unintended consequences the ordinance may have on the Montclair community.

"As a corporate girl, I'd like to think I'm unaffected by this ordinance," Esty stated. "However being a resident of Montclair and a business leader in Montclair, I feel sorry for those who will suffer the repercussions of those who didn't think of the economics as a result of their voting actions. "

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