By Andrew George
As anticipated, the Newark City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to introduce a mandatory paid sick-leave ordinance.
Similar to an ordinance recently passed and signed in Jersey City, Newark's legislation would allow for both full- and part-time employees to earn up to one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a cap at 40 hours per year for businesses with 10 or more employees or that offer child care, food service or direct care.
Businesses with fewer than 10 employees would not be required to offer workers more than 24 hours of paid sick time per year.
Councilman Anibal Ramos is sponsoring the ordinance, which the council will still have to vote on before it could go into effect.
"There is a desire to ensure that we have a healthy workforce," Ramos said Wednesday.
Ramos said that the city held a roundtable discussion Monday with some of Newark's major employers, and many still have some questions as to how such an ordinance would be implemented. That's why he's stressing that the process move carefully and constructively.
When officials in Jersey City put their finishing touches on its paid sick-leave ordinance, the hope was that Trenton would take notice and move toward enacting a statewide mandate. In the coming months, the Legislature is expected to take up a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees) last spring.
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Ramos said he's not familiar with the details of the state bill and is currently focused on Newark. But having New Jersey's two biggest cities focus on the issue "kind of paves the way for some dialogue in Trenton," he said.
Ahead of Tuesday night's vote, a coalition of paid sick-leave advocates organized a rally on the steps of City Hall to show their support for the measure.
"Elected officials in Jersey City and now Newark have answered their constituents' call to take a leading role in this fight for workers' rights and basic decency," New Jersey Working Families Alliance executive director Bill Holland said in a statement. "If Newark passes this law, it will send an unmistakable signal to Trenton that our recent victory in Jersey City was just the start."
Both now in Newark and previously in Jersey City, statewide business groups have vocalized their opposition to mandatory paid sick-leave measures. They say not only would they force employers to give fewer raises and bonuses, but it could ultimately mean layoffs as well.
"This is trying to impose a one-size-fits-all approach when the needs of every business are different," Stefanie Riehl, an assistant vice president with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, told NJBIZ last week.
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