The right be to be sick

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The right be to be sick

Three out of four low income Hispanic workers cannot take a day off to take care of themselves or their children without fear of losing their job, according to an upcoming report by the Community Service Society.

The New York City Council must remedy this problem.

A bill reintroduced yesterday in the Council would give these workers some relief by demanding their employers provide paid sick days –a basic right every worker should have.

The new proposal –which comes after a failed attempt in 2010- addresses concerns about the economic impact the new requirement would have on small and new businesses. The modified bill exempts companies with less than five workers, and gives a one year grace period to newly established companies. It would, however, protect all employees from getting fired for taking a sick day.

Because it impacts New Yorkers from every corner –about 1.5 million workers, most of them Latino and women with children- the bill is likely to receive enough support from council members, but it does not have the backing of the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, which is necessary to bring the bill to a vote.

Quinn has reportedly opposed the bill on economic grounds. She says it will cost too many jobs.

But evidence from San Francisco –where a similar bill has been into effect since 2007 without fiscal damage- suggests that most businesses are perfectly capable to absorb this cost. The state of Connecticut, the city of Seattle, and Washington, D.C., have recently enacted similar ordinances.

Workers who cannot take a day off sick are more likely to delay preventive care and resort to visiting emergency rooms, which places a tremendous burden on taxpayers and could put public health at risk. On the other hand, empirical research, including compelling data by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, shows that the estimated cost of adopting a paid sick leave requirement is marginal and could lead to overall savings as workers would address ailments on a more timely basis.

Throughout the years, El Diario La Prensa has documented cases of Latinos who have been abruptly fired for taking a non-paid sick day, even after working for years for the same employer.

It is time to establish fair rules in the city’s workplace. We strongly urge Speaker Quinn to bring this measure to a passing vote.