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Campaign Updates

09/25/2013

Jersey City Council Passes Earned Sick Days Bill To Become First City In NJ To Guarantee Sick Days

JERSEY CITY – Tonight the Jersey City Council adopted an ordinance that would allow 30,000 workers to earn paid or unpaid sick leave. The measure, proposed last month by Mayor Steven Fulop, passed by a vote of 7 to 1. Once signed by Mayor Fulop, the ordinance will make Jersey City the first city in New Jersey and the sixth city in the nation to pass what advocates say is a commonsense policy that makes families more secure, boosts the economy and protects the public health.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:


Contact: Ady Barkan, Center for Popular Democracy

(917) 605-4345, abarkan@populardemocracy.org


Coalition hails victory that paves the way for similar legislation in Newark and statewide


 JERSEY CITY – Tonight the Jersey City Council adopted an ordinance that would allow 30,000 workers to earn paid or unpaid sick leave. The measure, proposed last month by Mayor Steven Fulop, passed by a vote of 7 to 1. Once signed by Mayor Fulop, the ordinance will make Jersey City the first city in New Jersey and the sixth city in the nation to pass what advocates say is a commonsense policy that makes families more secure, boosts the economy and protects the public health.


“We applaud Mayor Fulop and the elected officials of Jersey City for moving to enact paid sick days legislation. The rapid spread of this important policy from city to city across the country shows that the public is strongly supportive of policy that improves the lives of working families,” said Andrew Friedman, Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Progressive coalitions around the country are leading the way, hand-in-hand with elected officials who are committed to a robust economy that creates good jobs and expands our country’s middle class.”


“This legislation means I no longer have to worry about losing pay or getting fired if I need to take time off work when my little girl gets sick,” said James Burks, a security worker in Jersey City. “All families deserve that kind of basic security, and I’m proud that my city is doing its part to protect working families struggling to get by.”


The Jersey City ordinance allows workers to earn up to five paid sick days a year for all workers in businesses with ten or more employees. Employees are eligible to earn one hour of paid sick time for every thirty hours worked, for up to a maximum of forty paid sick hours per year. Workers in businesses with less than ten employees are eligible to earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. It will go into effect 120 days from its passage, on January 25 of 2014.


“Mayor Fulop and members of the Jersey City Council deserve credit for taking the lead on one of the major worker’s rights and public health causes of the day,” said Kevin Brown, State Director of 32BJ SEIU.  “With this law on the books fewer workers who become ill will have to choose between losing a day’s pay or going to work sick. Workers will be less likely to face financial hardship if they become ill, and the public will be at less risk of the spread of illness.”


Advocates testified at the Council hearing that the bill means more than just protection for workers, and has been shown to strengthen the economy and protect the public health of other communities that have implemented it.  In particular they cited studies in San Francisco and Seattle which showed no negative impact from earned sick days on local economies. Both cities outpaced neighbors that lacked earned sick time protection.


“Workers coming to work sick actually costs our nation $160 billion annually, far more than the cost of workers staying at home to recover,” said Bill Rodgers, Professor of Public Policy and Chief Economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “When sick workers stay home, the spread of disease slows and workplaces are healthier and more productive. And by letting workers earn sick days businesses put money in the pockets of low-income workers who go out into the marketplace and spend it on goods and services. It’s a win-win for workers, employers, and local economies.”


A study will assess the impact of the ordinance on workers and the city’s economy during its first year of implementation and make recommendations on whether to extend paid sick days to additional workers next year.


With support across party lines – polls consistently show that over 80% of voters, including Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike, support paid sick days – and local and national leaders, including President Obama, committing to “redouble our efforts on behalf of fairer workplaces and healthier, more secure families,” momentum for earned sick days legislation is growing across the country. 


Jersey City joins five other cities – Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; New York City; and Portland, Oregon – that have taken action to help boost the economy by making sure workers can hang on to critical income when ill. In NYC, paid sick days legislation was a powerful determinant in the outcome of this month’s Democratic primary for mayor, as voters were less likely to vote for Christine Quinn after she blocked action on paid sick days for three years.  Currently, Washington, D.C. is working to expand their existing paid sick days laws to cover all workers.  Campaigns for statewide sick days laws are moving forward in Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon and elsewhere.  


“Elected officials are quickly realizing that passing earned sick days laws is the right thing to do for workers and the smart thing to do for local businesses and consumers,” said Bill Holland, a Jersey City resident and executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “Newark’s City Council is already gearing up to pass an ordinance giving all of their city’s workers a chance to earn paid sick time. Passing earned sick days in New Jersey’s two largest cities would be a powerful catalyst for bringing this movement to the rest of the state.” 


Statewide coalition members that supported the bill in Jersey City and are working to bring similar legislation to Newark include the Center for Popular Democracy, the Time to Care Coalition, SEIU 32BJ, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, the New Jersey NAACP, Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), New Jersey Citizen Action, CWA District 1, and AFSCME.


Just this April Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt introduced an earned sick days bill that would protect 1.5 million New Jersey workers.


“The Jersey City Council vote is an incredible victory for working families, public health and the economy,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen. “While the fight for earned sick days for each and every New Jerseyan is far from over, Wednesday’s vote proved beyond doubt that the momentum is on the side of working families.”


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