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N.J. economists, academics express support for paid sick days in open letter to Newark council

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In an open letter Thursday addressed to Newark City Council and acting mayor Luis Quintana, a group of over 20 New Jersey-based economists and academics expressed support for the city's paid sick-leave legislation before it comes up for a final vote next Wednesday.

Organized by NJ Time to Care and the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, the letter urges the council to sign the bill, which it claims will strengthen the economy by creating a healthier and more productive workforce and allow business owners to retain their trained employees.

"Earned sick day policies can pay for themselves," College of New Jersey associate professor and signatory Michele Naples said in a release announcing the letter. "Less sickness spreading to fellow workers and customers means greater employee productivity and lower health-care costs. Paid sick-leave policy means lower job turnover and more families who have money in their pockets to spend in the local economy. It's the wise choice."

The Newark bill allows for full- and part-time employees to earn up to one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. There is a cap at 40 hours per year for businesses with 10 or more employees or those that offer child care, food service or direct care.

Business with fewer than 10 employees will only be required to offer employees at least 24 hours of paid sick-leave per year.

If passed, Newark would become the second municipality in the state do so; Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop signed a similar bill into law in October. Also, a statewide bill was introduced last spring in the Assembly.

"A growing body of academic research shows that the costs of providing earned sick days are extremely small, while the benefits — for employers, employees and the public — are quite significant," said signatory Bill Rodgers, a Rutgers University professor and chief economist at its Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. "Workers coming back to work sick actually costs our nation $160 billion annually — far more than the cost of workers staying at home to recover."

Rob Duffey, policy and communications coordinator for NJWF, said the letter is intended as a response to some of the criticisms that have been lodged against paid sick-leave legislation from business groups that claim its regulatory nature will ultimately hurt small businesses.

"You will no doubt see doomsday predictions from corporate lobbyists who oppose an earned sick days law in Newark," NJ Citizen Action director and Time to Care member Phyllis Salowe-Kaye said in the release. "Yet the testimony of the majority of firms that provide sick days, the real-life experiences of cities and states who have enacted the legislation and the vast body of academic research leaves no room for doubt: earned sick days are a boon to the economy, small businesses and workers alike."

 
 

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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