New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio touted an expansion of the city’s paid sick leave law Friday, the first legislative accomplishment of his administration and a muscular display of the new, left-leaning government running the nation’s largest city.
More than half a million New Yorkers will receive paid sick days thanks to the bill, which will be fast-tracked through the City Council. The new speaker of the council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, stood with de Blasio outside a Brooklyn restaurant to announce the legislation, long a dream of liberal politicians and activists, but her presence seemed indicative of more.
Mark-Viverito is the liberal de Blasio’s ideological match and a partner at the controls of government. She leads a council that largely shares de Blasio’s beliefs and appears poised to rubber-stamp much of his agenda, a sharp contrast with the contentious relationship they had with previous mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The winding history of the paid sick legislation, which was first discussed more than four years ago, offers a window into the changed relationship between council and mayor. Bloomberg opposed the bill for fears that it would burden small businesses. He pressured then-Speaker Christine Quinn, a sometimes ally, to stall the legislation over the cries of several elected officials.
One of those was de Blasio, then the public advocate, who turned it into a campaign issue in last year’s mayoral race. Under intense pressure from the left during the Democratic primary that she was also running in, Quinn eventually caved, offering a watered-down version of the bill that mandated that businesses with 15 or more employees offer at least five sick days a year.
That bill was to go into effect in April. But it will be superseded by the new law, which will be introduced next week and is assured of passage. The new bill requires businesses with more than five workers to offer the same five sick days a year if the employee or a family member falls ill.
The expansion also removes exemptions for the manufacturing sector, eliminates a provision that would have allowed some businesses to not offer coverage until 2015 and gets rid of measures that could have stalled the implantation based on certain citywide economic benchmarks.
“Under this legislation, the lives of over a half-million New Yorkers will be immeasurably better,” de Blasio said.
A leading business group, the Partnership for New York City, offered a measured endorsement of de Blasio’s plan.
“Our hope is that these amendments to the current law will expand protection to more workers who need it, but avoid undue hardship on employers,” said Kathy Wylde, head of the group.