Brooklyn’s City Council delegation is pushing to give city’s workers more sick days, setting up a clash with the borough’s own Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the bill as too costly to Mom and Pop.
The debate burst into public view on Tuesday, when the Chamber and its allies squared off against 12 Brooklyn co-sponsors in consecutive press conferences at City Hall.
Chamber President Carl Hum said that bill is too strict for the small businesses in the borough that are struggling with tight staff.
“It’s just the wrong time to impose a mandate on the backs of small business,” he said.
The bill would require businesses with 10 or less workers to give their employees five paid sick days a year while larger businesses would have to provide nine days.
Hum added that the bill is unnecessary because roughly two-thirds of the Chamber’s 1,110 members already offer paid sick leave — albeit not always as generously.
“A lot of small businesses are more than 10 people, but they may offer five days. With this they would have to offer four more days,” he said.
Hum couldn’t be more wrong about the bill, its supporters said.
“We have more than a million workers who are now forced to choose between their own health, their family’s health, their co-workers’ health, their customers’ health and keeping their job,” said Councilman-elect Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), whose support for the issue helped him win the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which has made a paid sick day law a major initiative.
Lander, who was part of a rally for the bill later on Tuesday, is not the only Brooklyn elected to officially throw his support for more sick days.
Brownstone Brooklyn councilmembers Bill DeBlasio (D-Park Slope), Letitia James (D-Clinton Hill) and David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) have co-sponsored the bill along with eight other borough lawmakers.
So which side is right? One independent group put out a study last month that claims the bill would cost businesses $332 million a year.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research study backs up some concerns that the bill is an economic plague to the borough’s businesses, citing a $320-million-plus cost to city companies — but the group also pointed out the financial benefits to businesses that offer more sick days.
And medical experts who testified before a Council committee on Tuesday backed up the group’s claim that the law helps overall productivity because healthy workers would no longer be catching bugs from their sick co-workers.
“The simplest, easiest, and most effective thing that can be done do to contain [illness] is to make sure that those who need it can take a day off work,” said Victor Sidel, a doctor representing an umbrella group of physicians.
Hum said that the Chamber has been lobbying members of the Council and has been pleased that they’re listening, he said.
But Working Families Party spokesman Dan Levitan argued that the bill should not be watered down.
“I think anyone can intuitively figure out that if it’s five work days out of 365 work days in the day it’s a relatively small cost,” he said.
©2009 Community News Group
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