Grassroots organizations pushing for an ordinance to provide private sector workers in the city with earned sick time are asking supporters to attend Tuesday’s council meeting to voice their support for the ordinance.
New Jersey Citizen Action, one of the backers of the ordinance that seeks to put in place a local law that will grant full and part time private sector worker with one-hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, is circulating a flyer to encourage supporters to come out to show their support for the ordinance on Tuesday evening.
“When workers get sick they need time to get well. In New Jersey, however, some 1.1 million workers do not earn sick days,” reads the flyer. “Many workers who don’t have sick days care for our children and elderly or prepare or serve food in restaurants. They cannot afford to stay home…even if they are sick.”
The ordinance will require businesses with 10 or more employees to offer one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours or five work days per year. Businesses with nine or fewer employees will be mandated to do the same, but for a maximum of 24 hours or three work days.
There is an exception to the business size measurement though: food service, direct care, and child care workers will be eligible to earn 40 hours of sick time regardless of business size.
Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, one of the groups pushing for the major, last month, in front of the council, stated that food service workers lack of sick time presents a health problem for the public.
“You have food service workers who have to go in sick to ensure they have a paycheck,” said Mejia. “They’re potentially serving you their flu with your French fries.”
Mejia cited a sick worker at a Belmar bar who spread mumps to patrons causing an outbreak of the disease. The alliance reasons, had that worker been provided with sick time, it would have been more likely than not that he or she would have taken time off to attend to their illness rather than spread it to patrons.
The alliance cites that as a result of the outbreak the establishment had to close for a few weeks resulting in loss of revenue. The city’s business community isn’t buying the alliance’s argument. The Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce has come out against the measure saying it will result in businesses laying off workers or leaving the city altogether.
President of the chamber Jamie Dykes few weeks ago said the city’s businesses have yet to recover from the Great Recession. “Adding anything else to their cost and bottom line right now is a real hardship,” said Dykes. “It’s great to give people added benefits, but if it’s not there and it causes people to either go out of business or lay off existing staff members, I don’t see a net benefit in that.”
The alliance brushes aside the business community’s concerns citing examples from San Francisco and other cities, where such an ordinance had minimal impact on business. The groups’ flyer states that one year after passage the city will conduct an economic impact study to measure the ordinance’s impact.
Council members and mayor Jose “Joey” Torres have expressed their support for the ordinance. The ordinance is expected to pass on Tuesday evening.