Sick Pay Advocates Accuse Christine Quinn of Deadly Foot-Dragging
CITY HALL — Advocates of a mandatory paid sick leave bill upped the pressure on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to a fever pitch Wednesday, accusing her of being complicit in the death of a young father who died of stomach cancer — because he couldn't take time off from work to recover from his treatment, his widow alleged.
Anastacia Gonzalez, 31, said her husband, Felix Trinidad, delayed visiting the doctor, worked in severe pain, and failed to get the rest he needed after chemotherapy treatments because his bosses at the Golden Farm supermarket in Kensington, Brooklyn did not provide him paid sick days off.
Gonzalez could not cite any missed appointments or specific instances when her husband delayed doctors visits, but insisted that had he been able to take time off without sacrificing his family, her husband would still be alive.
“If he had had paid sick days, he would have rested more and he would be better,” said Gonzalez, who spoke in Spanish while on the verge of tears following a rally at City Hall calling on Quinn to pass a bill that would make the leave mandatory for most businesses.
Trinidad died on July 12 at the age of 34, six months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, she said.
A woman answering the phone at Golden Farm said a manager was not available to comment and slammed down the phone when asked about the company's sick leave policy.
Quinn has been under intense pressure in recent months to pass the legislation, which would require businesses with 20 or more workers to give employees nine paid sick days off a year. Employees at business with five to 19 workers would be entitled to five.
The bill has more than enough support in the council to override a veto from the mayor. But Quinn, who has also tried to bolster her business credentials ahead of a run for mayor, has blocked it from coming to the floor.
While she expressed sympathy for Trinidad’s family, Quinn said Wednesday his death hadn’t changed her mind on the bill.
“I’m just so very sorry for his wife and his children and his family,” she said. “That said, my position on paid sick leave legislation has not changed."
Quinn said that, while the goal of the bill was “laudable,” "in this economy... it would cost us jobs and have a very negative effect on small businesses.”
“At this time and this way, it’s not legislation I can support right now,” she said.
Quinn’s reluctance to pass the legislation has drawn scorn from labor leaders and a host of influential women, including feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, who has threatened to withdraw support for Quinn unless she passes the bill.
Many speakers at the press conference threatened that a failure to act now would cost lives as well as political favor.
“We’re saying to Speaker Quinn, the time to act is now. This is a matter of life or death!” said Rev. Que English, senior pastor of the Bronx Christian Fellowship Church, who was one of a dozen religious leaders in attendance.
Bishop Orlando Findlayter, chair of the Churches United to Save and Heal, called the delay "an outrage."
"If you can’t do it now, we don't need to see you later!" he said.
A recent report found that employees without paid days are significantly less likely to receive cancer screenings, including mammograms and pap smears, as well as general medical care.
A poll out last week also found that a significant majority of voters — 73 percent —support paid sick bill leave.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has warned the bill would be a "disaster" for jobs and has vowed to veto it if it lands on his desk.