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CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Paid Sick Leave Won for 1 Million Workers

The national movement to guarantee paid sick days to workers won a major victory yesterday, when the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto in a 47-4 vote and enacted the Earned Sick Time Act. The legislation, passed with what the New York Times called “a raw display of political muscle” by a broad coalition of labor, community and advocacy organizations, gives 3.4 million private sector workers in New York City the legal right to take 5 sick days every year to care for themselves or their ailing family members. Of these workers, 1.4 million were not previously entitled to any sick time by the terms of their employment agreements – and for them this law will represent a meaningful improvement in their quality of life.

Center for Popular Democracy played a central role in the victory, helping to negotiate the compromise that ensured sufficient political support for passage and then working with City Council attorneys to draft the final bill. As part of a broad and robust political coalition, CPD helped mobilize pressure on the City Council, designed key elements of the legislation to ensure that workers will actually be able to exercise their right to sick time off without fear of retaliation, and helped advance a procedural strategy to free the bill from committee purgatory and bring it to the floor for a vote.

As a result of the coalition’s persistence, 1 million workers will now, for the first time, be able to take paid time off when they need it. Another 400,000 will, for the first time, be able to take (unpaid) time off without fear of losing their jobs. And 2 million other workers who already had sick time will benefit from a new labor standard that gives them security and additional bargaining power in their workplace.