BUSHWICK — The outdoor press conference below the eleveated train felt more like a campaign rally than a policy announcement. Police blocked off access. A crowd of supporters packed into the area in front of the makeshift stage. More supporters chatted “si se puede”—yes we can—from across the street. A big, new banner hung behind the podium: “One New York Rising Together.”
And when Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped to the podium, the crowd broke into cheer.
The campaign atmosphere lent itself to the reason for the event. De Blasio had made the expansion of paid sick leave a central part of his platform during last year’s election.
“We talked a lot about the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’” de Blasio said, referring to his campaign rallying cry. “Our goal is to create one city, where everyone can rise together. And this is one of the steps we have to take to make that possible.”
De Blasio’s proposal would expand paid sick leave legislation orchestrated by former Speaker Christine Quinn, passed last year, over the veto of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
That legislation, considered watered down by de Blasio and other more liberal members of the City Council, would have only applied to businesses with 15 or more employees, and included exemptions for certain sectors, like manufacturing, and implementation delays in the event of a slowing economy. After its passage in March 2013, the legislation was believed to cover 1 million New Yorkers.
The new legislation, being introduced to the Council by the mayor himself, will force businesses with five or more employees to provide workers, both full and part-time, with up to five paid sick days a year. Gone are the exemptions and triggers.
De Blasio said the new legislation will give and additional 500,000 New Yorkers access to paid sick time that they currently lack.
“Let’s be very clear: this City Hall is going to be on the side of working families all over the city,” de Blasio said.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a de Blasio ally, said last year's law was a “good start,” but did not go far enough.
“It’s a policy that’s good for public health, good for public health, and good for our economy,” Mark-Viverito said.
For those concerned about the legislation’s possible drag on the economy and small business owners, de Blasio said the implementation of similar legislation elsewhere showed it “works for everybody.”
“It improves productivity. It improves the retention of workers. It creates a better environment for customers. There are so many advantages,” de Blasio said before mentioning other cities with similar legislation, including Seattle and San Francisco.
Kathy Wylde, the president and CEO of the pro-business Partnership for New York City, released a tempered response to the legislation. Wylde had been publically against the legislation ahead of the compromise reached last year.
“The Mayor has made it clear that he wants all working New Yorkers to have the ability to take time off for illness, which is a goal that our Partnership members share,” Wylde said in the statement. “Our hope is that these amendments to the current law will expand protection to more workers who need it, but avoid undue hardship on employers.”
De Blasio said he expected the legislation, which he said was supported by “tremendous consensus” in the City Council, to be passed and implemented by the beginning of April.