The Push is on for Earned Sick Days in NJ [AUDIO]
Over 1.2 million New Jersey workers, 38 percent of the state's private-sector workforce, don't get paid sick days.
That doesn't mean these employees don't get sick. It means they don't get paid if they have to stay home when they're ill. A bill in the legislature would change that and it has the backing of a new and growing coalition as well as the top lawmaker in the Assembly.
The measure introduced by State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt would allow New Jersey workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year (five days if a workplace has fewer than 20 employees). Employees could access the days to recover from illness, seek preventive care or care for an ill family member without having to worry about losing a day's pay.
Female leaders from across the state are banding together to urge the state to ensure all workers in the state have access to earned sick days. The women include donors and philanthropists, labor and civil rights leaders, writers, academics, politicians and advocates. Their group is called the New Jersey Time to Care coalition.
"The bottom line is clear: a healthy economy needs healthy workers," says Lampitt. "Forcing employees to choose between their health and their paycheck puts a huge drag on business productivity, while risking the health of the employee, co-workers and the public. That's why the modest paid sick leave requirement I have proposed is good news both for New Jersey's workers and New Jersey's economy."
A bill cannot be posted for a vote in the Assembly unless the Speaker chooses to move the legislation. That won't be an issue with this bill.
"Earned sick leave is an issue whose time has come," says Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. "The legislators in New Jersey will move toward enacting earned sick days."
A number of states and cities, most recently in New York City, have already adopted earned sick days policy for their workers, and more are exploring the idea. A survey of business owners in San Francisco, where they have had an earned sick days policy since 2006, found that two-thirds of business owners support the policy and six in seven employers report no negative impact on profitability.
Not everyone is thrilled with this bill. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in New Jersey is opposed saying the under legislation if an employee doesn't come to work, the business owner still has to pay that worker and either pay another employee for doing that work or do the work themselves which hurts productivity.
"This idea is going to cost jobs and the people who will suffer are going to be the single, low-wage women whom the advocates say they want to help," says NFIB spokesman Jack Mozloom. "All of these good intentions politicians and busybody activists want to mandate come with a price tag."
Response To Opposition
The supporters of the bill expected some push back.
"While some corporate interests might say otherwise, the fact of the matter is that earned sick days are good for New Jersey's businesses," says Lizette Delgado Polanco, Executive Director of the SEIU New Jersey State Council. "The health of our economy depends on the health of our working families - and the health of our working families depends on this legislation.
In New Jersey, one in four low-income workers have access to earned sick days. About four of five New Jersey food service and hotel workers don't have a single earned sick day and neither do the majority of those who staff child care centers, retail stores and nursing homes.