11/27/2012 03:49 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2013

All New Yorkers Need "Paid Sick Leave"

The following is the English version of an op-ed that was published in the November 16, 2012, edition of "El Diario La Prensa." The original, Spanish-language version of that piece can be read here.

Over the past few years, we have taken great steps to make our economy fairer for the people of this city. We've fought to change the way business is done in this city, through our advocacy on the "Fair Wages for New Yorkers" Act.

Now, we stand united on an issue that is just as critical to our city as the fight for a living wage.

I stood last month on the steps of City Hall with City Council Members Gale Brewer and Daniel Garodnick as well as the coalition in support of the "Paid Sick Leave," legislation also known as "Intro 97."

Statistics show us that the need for "paid sick leave" legislation is a necessity, not just across the city but particularly in the Bronx and among our Latino communities.

Unfortunately, the Bronx ranks last among all 62 NY state counties on the 2012 County Health Rankings for health outcomes.

The Bronx has the highest asthma rates in the city and some of the highest rates in the nation. In some of our neighborhoods, one in four children are diagnosed with asthma. Bronxites have the highest prevalence of diabetes, and have the highest rates of obesity in our city.

We have serious health issues in our borough, and in this city, that must be addressed. Yet far too many workers, particularly low-wage workers in our communities have to sacrifice their paycheck or sacrifice their health, a choice no one should be forced to make. Statistics show us that, among all racial and ethnic groups in our city, Latinos are the least likely to have jobs that provide paid sick days, just 54 percent.

Among working women, not even half -- only 49 percent -- of Latinas in our city can take a paid sick day when they need to deal with their child having an asthma attack, when they have the flu, or to get a recommended mammogram.

I stood, with Council Members Brewer and Garodnick, to say that this is unacceptable. It is a basic right of the people of the Bronx and this city to be able to take a sick day when they need to. This is simply a matter of fairness.

I commend Council Member Brewer for having the courage to introduce this legislation, to move the conversation forward on workers' rights in this city. And I equally commend Council Member Garodnick for putting forward some very reasonable changes to the original legislation.

This amended bill drops the number of required sick days from nine to five, and carves our exceptions for small businesses and service industry employees. These changes should make this bill accerptable to our business community. Yet we continue to hear from them, time and time again, that no version of the "Paid Sick Leave" bill will ever be acceptable.

Is that fair to the people of this city? Is that the right thing to do?

This legislation, much like the "Fair Wages for New Yorkers" Act, is incredibly popular. A Quinnipiac poll in August found that 73 percent of new Yorkers support this bill. Last month, a Community Service Society poll found that 83 percent of city residents favor this legislation.

That same poll found that 84 percent of all Latinos support this legislation, and that more than 80 percent of Bronxites are in favor of it as well.

I am pleased that a hearing on this legislation has been scheduled, and I look forward to hearing from our neighbors about just how important this legislation is, and how necessary it is that it pass.

Our business community continues to fight this legislation. But the people of the Bronx, and the people of this city, get it. They understand that paid sick days are a basic labor standard. And they are not buying the argument that a tiny cost like providing five paid sick days a year will hurt jobs, given the benefits of a healthier workforce.

It is time for Intro 97 to become law, and I look forward to assisting my colleagues in the City Council in their efforts on behalf of this "Paid Sick Leave" legislation. This is the right thing to do.