March 28, 2013
New York, NY – New York City Councilwoman and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn lauded car wash workers on Wednesday night for their courage in fighting industry-wide abuses – but she failed to say whether or not she supports the legislation that would allow “washeros” to take a day off of work if they get sick. (Read More/Watch Video)
New York City “washeros” belonging to the Wash NY campaign are calling for paid sick days as part of a list of demands that includes overall dignity and respect on the job, health insurance and safeguards against wealthy owners digging into their tips.
“We’re in negotiations about that legislation right now so, I’m going to leave that for the ongoing negotiations,” Quinn told LaborPress when asked about the Paid Sick Time Act now languishing in the New York City Council.
Earlier this week, Crain’s Insider reported that Quinn – who has for the last three years used her position as speaker to block a vote on paid sick days – is now directly working with both 32BJ SEIU and 1199 SEIU on a new deal involving the paid sick days bill.
The pending legislation enjoys a super-majority in the New York City Council and would force businesses with five or more employees to extend a week of paid sick days to their workers each year. Those businesses with fewer than five employees would not have to pay their workers who get sick, but they would have to allow them the same time off to recuperate, or care for a family member.
This current incarnation of the paid sick days bill is already a watered down version of the one originally introduced over 1,000 days ago. When pressed further on Wednesday night and asked what specifically about the bill she opposes, Quinn said, “We’re in the thick of negotiations right now, so we’ve all agreed to have kind of a press blackout while we’re in the midst of negotiations.”
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU] President Stuart Appelbaum said that he is “encouraged” by the way those negotiations are shaping up.
Over the last year, RWDSU, along with and Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change, have made history together by successfully organizing car wash workers around the city for the first time ever.
“I always felt that the speaker supports paid sick days,” Appelbaum said. “But for her, it was a question of when and how. I think that it’s important to try to do it as quickly as possible, and as strongly as possible. And I’m delighted to see that there appears to be movement going on now.”
But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the deal that Quinn and her supporters might ultimately hatch.
Bill de Blasio – Quinn’s rival to succeed Mayor Mike Bloomberg – argues that whatever deal the speaker might be crafting, is in danger of being far too weak.
“According to the Community Services Society, almost half of all Latinos in New York City are denied paid sick leave, and 63 percent of low-income Latinos have no access to paid sick days,” de Blasio said. “This is a huge, and unacceptable disparity, and is yet another reason why the time is now for Speaker Quinn to stop stalling and finally bring Paid Sick Leave to a vote. It's also a huge reason why we need strong, uncompromising paid sick protections that leave no New Yorkers behind, and not some watered-down bill that could shut out hundreds of thousands.”
Throughout her steadfast refusal to back paid sick days legislation, Quinn has maintained that if enacted, the measure her city council colleagues have already created would hurt too many businesses.
At the same time, a growing list of opponents including grassroots groups, newspapers, elected officials, physicians and even small businesses owners, have argued that paid sick days covering over a million workers currently unprotected should they fall ill, would benefit the entire city.
Editor's Note: Since the time of this writing Quinn has reportedly agreed to a compromise version of the paid sick days bill.