Municipalities Enact Paid Sick Leave

By Briana Vannozzi

One by one cities around North Jersey are following suit, approving mandatory paid sick time for full- and part-time private employees.

“It gives them an hour for every 30 hours worked and ensures that they are able to use it to care for themselves or a member of their family,” said New Jersey Working Families Alliance Executive Director Analilia Mejia.

So far the ordinance has been adopted by Jersey City, Newark, East Orange, Passaic, Paterson and most recently Irvington. While each city may have nuances, the guidelines are primarily the same. Businesses with nine employees or less are obligated to provide at least three days of compensated time over the course of a year and five days for larger employers of 10 or more.

“Our intent is to cover as many workers as possible, particularly paying attention to key industries that actually impact public,” Mejia said.

Labor unions and liberal groups like New Jersey Working Families Alliance have been pushing to take this initiative statewide. Mejia explains that it’s been difficult to get more progressive policies through the legislature and signed, so they found a way around it — through the Faulkner Act.

“That actually allows regular citizens to act as legislators in their municipalities. They have the ability to propose legislation through a petition. If that petition meets a threshold of signatures, that question is put before city council,” explained Mejia.

But the business industry isn’t backing it. The NJBIA had several videos posted on its website outlining its stance.

“The goals of the sick leave legislation are certainly laudable, but when you really peel back the issue, it is going to have a negative impact on small businesses. One of the reasons it’s gonna have that negative impact is because many small businesses are going to have to pay workers twice under the legislation. They’re gonna have to pay once for worker who’s out and again for their replacement,” said NJBIA Assistant Vice President Stefanie Riehl.

We tried over a dozen businesses in Newark today, but none of the owners would go on camera. Support was mixed. There was concern over increased hours put on either themselves or other workers, and too much government involvement. Employees, however, say these policies are overdue.

“You gotta choose whether there’s food on the table. Suck it up. You gotta come to work,” said worker Luz Sosa.

Sosa is a single mom and says having to stay home with a sick kid is unavoidable.

“The school calls you to go pick them up,” she said.

Today the Assembly majority office told NJTV News the speaker plans to make this bill a priority and will put it up for vote as early as September.

“You can rest assured that the person that is serving you your food or caring for your child or bagging your groceries isn’t forced to come into work with the flu,” said Mejia.

Voters in Trenton and Montclair will be asked to decide on paid sick leave this November when they vote via ballot question.