As a statewide paid sick leave bill sits in Trenton awaiting debate later this fall, a coalition of supporters is taking its case in the meantime to individual municipalities across New Jersey.
On Tuesday, coalition members took to the city halls of Trenton, Montclair, Irvington, Passaic and Paterson to deliver “thousands” of pro-legislation petitions aimed at triggering a local ballot initiative process.
According to the coalition, the five selected municipalities would fall under the provisions of the Faulkner Act, which sets the stage for a local ballot initiative process when 10 percent of those registered to vote in the prior election sign on to a given petition.
“Today, New Jerseyans around the state have delivered an unmistakable message to their elected leaders: earned sick days should be a basic workplace right,” New Jersey Working Families executive director Analilia Mejia said. “Voters understand that no workers should ever be forced to choose between their paycheck and their health. We all get sick, so we all need the time to care for ourselves and our families when illness strikes.”
Newark’s paid sick leave ordinance, which was signed into law earlier this year, is the model for the newly proposed measures. They stipulate that full- and part-time workers can earn up to one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a 40-hour per year cap for businesses with 10 more workers or those that offer child care, direct care or food service. Only 24 hours of sick time per year would be mandated for businesses that have nine or fewer employees.
The petitions come just a day after East Orange’s city council voted unanimously to introduce its own version of the bill, setting the stage for the city to join Newark and Jersey City as the third in the state to usher in a paid sick leave ordinance. The city is scheduled to hold a second and final vote on the measure, which also mirrors Newark’s ordinance, later this month.
Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of organizing and strategic program development and executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said that the coalition is “still committed” to seeing the statewide bill pass, but noted that “anywhere we can find progress is a good place to start.”
“This is an unprecedented grassroots campaign to bring earned sick days laws to a diverse set of communities in New Jersey,” Mottola Jaborska said. “It positions New Jersey as a leader in the fight for this common sense policy and it builds unstoppable momentum for a statewide bill that will cover the 1.2 million New Jerseyans who can’t earn a single sick day.”
Business groups have remained largely opposed to mandating paid sick time since Jersey City became the first in the state to introduce its ordinance last year.
David Brogan, first vice president with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said that while both the statewide bill and push for individual municipal ordinances are each “problematic” in their own way, “having 565 different paid sick leave ordinances is not going to be helpful to the business community in New Jersey.”
“Every one of these mandates has a cost on business,” Brogan said. “What it’s doing is making us less and less competitive with other states and it’s also making potential business owners think twice about operating in New Jersey.”
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