Workers and Activists Rally for Paid Sick Days

Workers and Activists Rally for Paid Sick Days

August 01, 2012 at 4:00 am

Drummers added an element of festivity and comraderie at the paid sick rally in Elmhurst, Queens. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

Many New Yorkers take paid sick days for granted. But when the million city residents who don’t have employer-paid sick days become ill, they have to choose between their health and their job.

Last year, Celina Alvarez was let go from her job at Taqueria La Casa Del Idolo in Elmhurst, Queens, when she got sick and had to take time off.  On Tuesday afternoon, the progressive organizations Make the Road NY and the Working Families Party were joined by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras in rallying behind Alvarez at the Mexican restaurant. Statements were made in Spanish and English, and drummers accompanied chants.

According to Make the Road and the WFP, restaurant employees — as well as women and minorities — are most often the workers without paid sick days. And when a worker in the food service industry comes to work sick, that’s a public health threat in addition to a personal threat.

“The reality is this affects all New Yorkers,” said Ferraras.

Mothers are also torn.

“Women have to decide whether they’re going to stay home with their children that are sick or send them to school [in order to go to work,]” said Ferreras.


Celina Alvarez lost her job at Taqueria La Casa Del Idolo after taking time off while she was sick.  On Tuesday, New York City Council member Julissa Ferreras, Make the Road NY and the Working Families Party joined her to protest her firing outside the eatery. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

The Paid Sick Days Act, first introduced in 2009 and amended most recently at the start of this year, has 37 co-sponsors in the New York City Council, but City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not brought the bill to the council floor.

In a statement issued last week, Quinn said the economy was driving her thinking on the issue.

“I believe providing paid sick leave to hardworking families is a worthy and admirable goal, one I would like to make available for all. However, with the current state of the economy and so many businesses struggling to stay alive, I do not believe it would be wise to implement this policy, in this way, at this time,” she said.

The proposal says workers at businesses with more than 20 employees would earn nine paid sick days, workers at businesses with five to 20 employees would earn five paid sick days, and workers at “mom and pop” businesses would receive five unpaid, but job-protected, sick days.

Seattle, Washington D.C. and San Francisco have implemented similar policies.

Ferreras believes the day when all New Yorkers have paid sick days will come, and that Quinn will change her mind.

“I know one of her issues has been the economy, but we have the opportunity to do something that’s right for New York and I have faith that she will move in that direction.”