NEW YORK — When Juana Alvarez’s 14-year-old daughter contracted a blood infection five years ago, Alvarez took her daughter to the hospital, leaving her newborn baby at home with her husband, Abel. Abel took two days off from his pizzeria job to stay home with the baby, a decision that ended up costing him his job: His employer was one of many around the country that deny sick days to their employees.
Abel now works at another pizzeria that also does not offer paid sick days — but after years of campaigning on the part of workers and activists, that is set to change. On Friday, Alvarez joined dozens on the steps of City Hall to cheer on Christine Quinn, speaker of the City Council, as she announced that lawmakers, liberal activists and labor and business leaders in New York have reached a deal on a bill that will require all businesses in New York City to let workers take sick days. Advocates are saying the measure could have reverberations around the nation, as other communities are inspired to enact similar changes.
“What it shows to workers is that, in the end, it’s people just like you who can make a difference,” said Ellen Bravo, the director of Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions striving for paid sick days and paid family leave in 20 states.
Referring to the bill’s broad backing by union leaders and nonunion workers, activists, small-business owners and celebrity supporters like Gloria Steinem, Bravo added, “The change we need is change we can win when we stick together.”
Starting in April 2014, New York will require business with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days to their workers, and business that don’t reach the size limit will be required to offer unpaid sick leave. On October 1, 2015, the list of employers required to grant paid sick days will expand to include those with 15 or more workers. Although Mayor Bloomberg is expected to veto the bill, the proposal has enough support in the council to become law.
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