23,000 city workers will now be able to accumulate sick time, one-hour for every 30 hours worked, after the city council adopted an ordinance Tuesday evening.
The new law mandates employers with 10 or more workers to provide 40 hours of sick time; employers with nine or fewer workers are mandated to provide 24 hours of sick time. Additionally employers in food service, child care, and home health care industries are to provide 40 hours of sick time to every worker regardless of company size.
Council members unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance.
“My mom worked a job that didn’t have sick time,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward. “I know what it is to have to stay home as a child to look after my brother and sister because my mom couldn’t stay home and I stayed home from school to look after my brother and sister.”
“I share the sentiments of councilwoman Cotton. Having a mother that was single with four children, it was so hard for her to take time off, because she had no time off. She didn’t have any paid sick time, she didn’t have any benefits while working in factories,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large.
Davila said knowing there are 23,000 other workers just like her mother made the ordinance a necessity, a problem that had to be addressed. The New Jersey Working Families Alliance, which pushed for the ordinance after presenting more than 4,000 petitions to the city, estimates there are 50,600 workers in the city out of which 23,300 lack any sick time. With the passage of this ordinance every private sector employee will have the ability to earn sick time.
“I think the measure is a reasonable one,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward. Other council members concurred with McKoy’s assessment.
“This is a victory for working families. This is a victory for economic security. This is a victory for fairness,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. The council heard from about half-dozen supporters of the ordinance each with stories of hardship that resulted from having lack of sick time.
“When I first saw this, I wasn’t in favor of this,” said council president Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward. Tavarez said growing up his parents had no sick days, no holidays, nothing. “They took off, they didn’t get paid: no health care, no benefits, no nothing,” said Tavarez.
Tavarez said after speaking to organizers and fellow council members he realized it was the right thing to do. “The fact is, it’s the right thing to do,” said Tavarez. “It is a good thing for Paterson. I’m not sure if it’s the best thing.”
The ordinance, which would have been placed on the ballot as an initiative in November, was adopted as a special reading ordinance without the usual second reading.