Despite many members voicing concerns about what it will mean for small businesses, the City Council passed expanded paid sick time legislation by a vote of 46-5.
Staten Island’s two Republican members, Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore) and Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island) were among the five no votes.
The bill expands upon a carefully negotiated compromise bill passed last year. The new legislation applies to many more small businesses – any with more than 5 employees – and speeds up the timeline for the law going into effect to this April.
“We’re passing a bill to improve a negotiated bill which has not gone into existence yet, and I’m sorry, but I don’t see the logic in that,” Ignizio said before his vote.
Ignizio said he wanted to be the “clarion call” for the bill having the unintended consequence of a chilling effect on small business.
“You will see business owners that will either not hire, will lay off folks, or will start putting people off the books,” Ignizio said. “That does not help any of us.”
He said rather than an unfunded mandate, the city or state should have explored using a tax incentive to get businesses to provide paid sick time.
Matteo said the Council was “being asked to set aside months of negotiation” for a new bill.
“We are now racing to dramatically expand its application to even more businesses,” Matteo said.
The city can’t afford to become a place that is unfriendly to start-ups and established small businesses.
“Mandated paid sick leave unnecessarily burdens our city small businesses at a time when our economic recovery is still slow and its sustainability is uncertain,” he said.
The borough’s other Council member, Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore) voted in favor of the bill – though she told the Advance before the meeting she did share some concerns for small businesses and would look to address them moving forward.
The dissenting Republicans were joined by fellow Republican Eric Ulrich of Queens who voted in favor of the compromise legislation, but said this expansion goes in the wrong direction.
“If you believe that this is a bad bill and a job-killing piece of legislation then I’m urging you to join me in voting no,” Ulrich said.
Two Democrats also voted against the bill – Council members Paul Vallone and Maria Del Carmon Arroyo. But many other Democrats said they were very concerned about what the legislation would mean for small businesses – and then voted in favor of it anyway.
“I really believe that small businesses may be hurt by this bill coming forward,” Councilmember Inez Barron said, before voting in favor of it – but saying she hoped it could be amended later on.
Councilwoman Inez Dickens, too, said she was concerned the bill hadn’t fully vetted, but voted yes.
“This has not been a city that has recognized that small businesses is the catalyst that employ local people in the districts,” Ms. Dickens said.
Councilman Ruben Wills voted in favor of the bill but said he’d introduce legislation to amend it to help small businesses.
Some tweaks were made after a hearing on the bill – lengthening the grace period for businesses to six months and reducing the amount of time businesses must hold on to records to two years.
While there was hesitation from some, other Council members were fully enthusiastic about the legislation. Lead sponsor Councilwoman Margaret Chin said other cities had already enacted such laws.
“I am proud to see New York City join them today in safeguarding what should be both a public safety concern and a human right — that is the idea that if you are sick, or someone you take care of is sick, that you do not have to afraid that you lose your job or lose your paycheck,” Ms. Chin said.
But plenty were left wondering why the bill passed overwhelmingly as so many voiced serious concerns.
“The fact that so many Council members had concerns about this legislation should stand for itself,” Vallone, who voted no, said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio spearheaded the push for the paid sick legislation – he criticized former Speaker Christine Quinn, his mayoral primary rival, for being slow to bring it to the floor and for the compromises she made.
“Because of the work of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues, half a million more New Yorkers will soon have the dignity and security that come with paid sick leave,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Under this law, thousands of hardworking New Yorkers will no longer have to choose between taking a sick day or earning a paycheck – and thousands of parents will no longer be forced to pick between caring for a sick child and earning enough to provide for them.”
It will be the first law de Blasio signs as mayor.