This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a substantial expansion of the 2013 paid sick leave law. The proposed bill, agreed to by the mayor and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivertio but not yet introduced or passed in the council, will expand the size of businesses required to provide paid sick leave from 15 or more employees to 5 or more employees, accelerate it’s applicability so that all covered businesses must comply by April 1, 2014 (businesses with 15-20 employees have until April 1, 2015 under the existing law), remove exemptions for manufacturing businesses and remove economic measurements that could have caused a delayed implementation and expand the range of family members that employees can care for during such paid sick leave.
The benefits are clear; according to the mayor’s office 235,000 workers will receive paid sick leave for the first time, 95,000 will receive it a year earlier than presently required and 190,000 more will receive a legal guarantee of paid sick leave. The costs, or at least who will bear them, are also clear. It’s predominantly very small businesses, those with 5-14 employees. Success or failure of the initiative is really about how those businesses are affected. Will they ultimately benefit from having a healthier, and perhaps more satisfied, workforce? Will they be able to pass along to their customers the added costs? To the extent that the answers to those questions are negative, is the cost to those businesses the right result in order to raise the overall welfare of our workforce?
It’s a dramatic move by de Blasio. He’s moving quickly to act on a point often discussed during the campaign, but one that he could easily have let wait for several months until the recently enacted law takes effect. It’s also dramatic in that he appears to have quickly set the terms with the newly selected council speaker without much, or even any, engagement of the council rank and file. While passage appears likely, he may face some vocal opposition around the terms and he, and his council speaker, may face future resentment from council members.
Following his announcement, Mayor de Blasio answered questions from the press. Here is his full press Q&A. (The press conference was held in front of Esmeralda’s Restaurant on Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. As you’ll see, the mayor paused periodically as the elevated M train loudly passed overhead.)