Ten states—Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington—require private-sector employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The federal government only requires the same of certain contractors, and under the current administration, notwithstanding Ivanka Trump’s reported interest in paid family leave, it’s hard to imagine even a modest expansion of the social safety net happening any time soon.
New York City adopted a paid sick leave law several years ago and now proponents are trying to marshal support for a similar measure in Albany County—which would extend a privilege enjoyed by state workers and lawmakers to the private sector, where part-time and service-industry workers are especially unlikely to have the same perk.
Implementing a paid sick leave law would protect public health and help companies retain workers, supporters say.
“For many, staying home sick or taking a child to a doctor visit can mean not just the loss of a day’s pay, but a reduction of hours, loss of key shifts and even the loss of a job,” Citizen Action of New York, one of the groups behind the push, says in a memo shared with The Alt.
In Albany County, 40 percent of workers in the private sector don’t have access to paid sick days, according to an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. For Hispanic workers, that figure is significantly higher.
Under the proposed local law, employees would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. If they work for a business with over 10 employees, employees could use up to 72 hours of paid sick leave. Workers could use the time to deal with their own or a family member’s illness. They could also use time to deal with issues related to domestic violence, sex trafficking, or child abuse.
The Capital Region Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, arguing that employers themselves “are best suited for determining the terms and conditions of employment, including benefits such as paid sick leave.”
“Albany County businesses will have no choice but to reduce their workforce and/or pass on the cost of this new mandate to consumers,” the Chamber’s memo says. “This proposal will cause some businesses to close and force some consumers to other surrounding counties.”
Since the paid sick leave law took effect in New York City in 2014, the percentage of low-income workers who have access to paid sick leave has increased from 47 to 71, according to a recent study by the Community Service Society of New York. Nearly a third of that population, in other words, still does not receive the legally required benefit, which reflects the need for “proactive enforcement to secure fuller compliance…in industries where violations are known to be rampant, but workers have been reluctant to come forward with complaints,” the CSS report says.
Also, last year, about half of all low-income workers in New York City “were unaware of their right to paid sick days,” according to the CSS report, which suggests the sustained need for public awareness efforts.
Movement supporters are not yet pushing for paid sick leave at the state level, Blue Carreker, a campaign manager with Citizen Action, told The Alt. “Both legislators and advocacy groups feel it is a better path to win local bills Upstate to demonstrate that it is not a hardship on business, before it would have a chance at the state level,” she said in an email. (Westchester County is also considering similar legislation.)
A public hearing regarding the proposed legislation is expected to be held by the Albany County legislature on May 29 at 7:15 P.M.