East Harlem Councilwoman Says Shelved Paid Sick Leave Bill Will Hurt Low Income Workers

By Jeff Mays on October 16, 2010 10:33am | Updated on October 18, 2010 7:14am

Annette Frias, an employee at Ideal Pet Warehouse for seven years, said one of the reasons she has been at her job so long is that her boss gives her paid sick leave even though there's no written policy.
Annette Frias, an employee at Ideal Pet Warehouse for seven years, said one of the reasons she has been at her job so long is that her boss gives her paid sick leave even though there's no written policy.
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DNAInfo/Jeff Mays

By Jeff Mays

DNAInfoReporter/Producer

HARLEM — At Ideal Pet Warehouse on East 116th Street between First and Second avenues, owner Joseph Spataro said he is against mandated sick time for small business employees, an idea at the core of a bill shelved last week by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

For Spataro, who has owned the store since 1977, taking care of your workers is just good business.

"I have guys that have been here 20, 30 years. I have one guy that went through two rehabs and his job was here waiting for him," said Spataro. "This is a small business where we rely on our extremely knowledgeable guys so something like that doesn't need to be mandated. This isn't Petco or Petland Discounts."

Quinn killed the bill saying it would hurt small businesses in a weakened economy. If approved, it would have required businesses with 20 or more employees to provide workers with nine paid sick days a year.

Opinions on whether the bill, or its demise, was better for working Manhattanites varied in this neighborhood of mom-and-pops and small shops.

Seven-year Ideal Pet Warehouse employee Annette Frias said she was torn about the legislation.

"It would be good for the workers but hurt some businesses," said Frias as she groomed a puppy.

She said that her employer was good about giving her paid time off to deal with her two kids or when she wasn't well, even though they had no written paid sick leave policy.

"If you have a business like this that cares properly for its employees, it's not a problem," Frias said. "It works here because the owner is considerate of the fact that I have two kids. He's very flexible."

But East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said the shelving of the bill was detrimental to low-income workers.

Mark-Viverito, part of the City Council's Progressive Caucus, said there was simply no evidence that the bill would hurt businesses. She said studies of similiar legislation in San Francisco showed no impact on job growth and that small businesses would feel no net impact.

"It would have helped tremendously the people who work in certain industries without paid sick leave such as the restaurant industry who don’t have the luxury of taking time off," Mark-Viverito said.

"I'm disappointed to hear that after a year of conversation this is dead in the water, but we are willing to continue to fight."

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