Businesses Deny the Facts on Paid Sick Days

05/13/2010 10:37 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • John Petro Policy Analyst on New York City and State Affairs

A bill guaranteeing every worker in New York City the right to earn paid sick leave is currently being held up because of opposition from the 5 Boro Chamber Alliance, a coalition of the Chambers of Commerce from the city's five boroughs. Their opposition is a shame, because currently over one million New Yorkers don't receive paid sick leave.

Yesterday on the Brian Lehrer show, I had the chance to debate with Robert Bookman, a lobbyist for the New York State Restaurant Association and a member of the Alliance, about the bill.

His claim was that the bill would be too costly for businesses to bear, and that because of these costs small businesses would stop hiring, lay off workers, or have to shut their doors altogether.

Except that we know this is not true. Paid sick leave is a tested, proven policy that has a track record of success in other cities.

I replied, "We looked at this issue in depth and, you know, we took the business community at their word and really looked for instances in which businesses have been hurt by this law in other cities that have passed a similar law... We did not see any of the negative impacts on business."

San Francisco passed a paid sick leave law in 2006, and since then employment has been stronger there than in neighboring counties.

None of the counties surrounding San Francisco have paid sick leave, and yet employment in San Francisco has performed better than even the tech-job mecca of Silicon Valley.

Even the bill's fiercest critics acknowledge that it has not had an effect on business. The Wall Street Journal called over to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to get their take on how the bill has affected businesses after nearly three years.

The burden, according to [San Francisco Chamber of Commerce] Senior Vice President Jim Lazarus, has been minimal... "It has not been a huge issue that we have heard from our members about."

Businesses in New York will continue to fight this bill, despite the evidence. But hopefully the New York City Council will have the resolve to pass this much-needed bill.

Most importantly, Council Speaker Christine Quinn must put her support behind the paid sick leave bill. Her support is long overdue. Over one million workers and their families are waiting.