Malik Gomdah—an immigrant from Ghana with a bachelors degree—has worked at a shoe store in Manhattan for ten years. He has never been given a single paid sick day.
“As a retail worker, I have gone to work sick because I did not want to lose my job,” said Gomdah. “If I did not go to work, I was putting my family in jeopardy.”
Gomdah spoke at a rally on the steps of New York City Hall on Wednesday. He joined dozens of advocates in supporting a bill that would guarantee paid sick leave for nearly a million workers in New York City.
The bill is called the New York City Earned Sick Time Act.
The City Council passed the bill on May 8 by a wide majority: 45 to 3, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed it. On Wednesday night, the Council will vote to override that veto.
“This is a good bill, a fair compromise, and we look forward to overriding the [mayor’s] veto today,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Garodnick (Democrat – District 4) at Wednesday’s rally.
This bill has been in the works since 2009. The original version would have required all businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick time each year. That would have put it on par with labor laws in liberal cities like San Francisco and Seattle. But Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposed it, saying it would hurt small businesses in New York’s fragile economy.
Speaker Quinn had been blocking the bill from a vote, but eventually groups strong-armed her into working out a compromise.
The current version of the bill will apply to businesses with 20 or more employees starting April 1, 2014, and those with 15 or more employees starting October 1, 2015. Those businesses will need to give employees 40 hours of paid time off annually for sickness or to care for a sick family member. Smaller companies will need to provide unpaid sick leave. And no business will be allowed to fire employees for taking that time off.