City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she won’t support a bill requiring businesses to give workers paid time off when they get sick. This comes after more than a year of intense lobbying from business groups, who called the legislation too costly, and supporters, like the Working Families Party, who said it provides vital protection for poor New Yorkers and health protection to the city overall.
Quinn, a liberal Democrat from the West Village whom many expect to run for mayor in 2013, said she supports the goals of the bill, but worried about its impact.
“My main concern was doing this in a recession and doing this at a time when many small businesses in the city of New York are not even breaking even,” Quinn said.
She said pushing the legislation forward now would backfire, and actually hurt the very workers that the bill was targeting.
“It would be a great thing if we could mandate that every worker got paid sick leave,” Quinn said. “But, if we do that and it in fact causes people to lose their jobs, what benefit have we actually forwarded?”
Supporters noted the bill has support from a veto-proof majority of members in the 51-person City Council. But the bill’s sponsor, councilwoman Gale Brewer of the Upper West Side, said she won’t push for an up-or-down vote on the legislation, yet, saying its fate would not be certain.
Brewer said she didn’t understand her fellow Democrat’s position.
“Having spent decades in the women’s movement –- this is a women’s issue, it’s a public health issue –- and I don’t understand from her perspective as a woman why she wouldn’t be more supportive,” Brewer said after Quinn’s announcement.
Quinn denied politics played a factor in her decision.
“I have to go to bed tonight as the Speaker of the New York City Council. And I have to go to bed tonight knowing I made a decision that was not easy, based on the requirements of the job that I hold,” Quinn said. “That’s all I can do today.”
Blocking the paid-sick day legislation could potentially earn Quinn support among the city’s business leaders who will likely be looking for a candidate to support. Many of them have enjoyed an open-door policy with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says he will not seek a fourth term.
Referring to the politics of a possible run in the 2013 mayoral race, Quinn said, “I’m not thinking about it.”