Saturday, April 6, 2013

Until This Week's Rally, Quinn's Message to Low Wage Workers Wanting Paid Sick Leave: Drop Dead

Basically, work 'til you drop is what Christine Quinn was telling low-wage hourly workers. For the great majority of the city's low-wage workers, plus New York City substitute teachers, and other per diem workers, blue collar and professional (with the business-friendly euphemism, "independent contractors") there is little choice: if you do not show up for work the employers might not hire you again. As the municipal elections approach, this page will carry more articles on how New York City Council Speaker Quinn has been attending more to the interests of the powerful one percent (given New York's tough real estate market, it might be more like ten percent in Manhattan) than the interests of ordinary working class and middle class New Yorkers.

Word is slowly getting out in the media about Quinn's weak record for working people. Salon featured Quinn in its article, Thursday, "Are female pols good for women?" by Irin Camron. As Camron notes, Quinn eventually blinked, but we must note that this is only after protests earlier this week by low wage workers, many still earning less than 10 dollars per hour. First, the opening of Juan Gonzalez' column for some backgroun, then Camron's column. It is interesting that Quinn blinked on the same day (April 4) that several hundred low-wage fast food workers rallied in New York City's midtown for higher pay. (Most of the workers earned the minimum of $7.25 an hour and were seeking to double their pay.) Juan Gonzalez, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

March 19, 2013:
It's time for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to stop stalling a vote on mandatory sick pay for workers More than 1 million New Yorkers face the injustice of docked pay if they stay home to tend to an illness. That's four out of 10 workers. Other officials have compromised to placate business-first Quinn, but she won't budge as she mounts her mayoral campaign and remains loyal to ally Mayor Bloomberg.

Speaker Christine Quinn has referred to mandatory sick pay in patronizing terms, such as “a worthy and admirable goal,” as she has blocked a simple up-or-down vote for three years now. The measure, with 38 backers, has more than enough support to pass, and the prime sponsor [Gale Brewer] has cut back the proposed sick days from nine to five to satisfy her.

Now that Albany lawmakers have agreed to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour, the City Council should end another blatant injustice faced by more than a million New York workers.

For three years now, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has blocked legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick days to their workers.

Quinn has prevented a simple up-or-down vote on the proposal. She has done this even though 38 of her 51 colleagues back the bill — more than enough to override a threatened veto by Mayor Bloomberg — and even though polls show the measure has overwhelming public support.
For more of Gonzalez' column in the Daily News:

Irin Camron, Salon, April 4, 2013
For about as long as women have been running for office, people who care about women’s lot have wondered whether one at the top would improve life for the rest of us. And last week’s skirmish in the New York City mayoral race was an object lesson.

The feminist bragging rights of Christine Quinn, the only female candidate in the New York race — the front-runner, potentially the first female and the first lesbian mayor of the biggest city in America — were being questioned. Using her power as speaker of the City Council, Quinn was blocking a sure-fire vote mandating paid sick days.

She faced a clear choice. While the bill was opposed by her key ally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lack of sick days disproportionately affects low-wage female workers, who also tend to have more care-giving responsibilities — and the coalition including the Working Families Party and union leaders made sure everyone knew it. Just as Quinn needed the support of people like Gloria Steinem and other high-profile feminists for her campaign, they were holding firm in demanding a vote on paid sick leave as a women’s issue. And it all came at a time when people who might vote on feminist bona fides were arguing over a central question raised by Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”: whether more female leaders would improve the lot of all women.

The Quinn case — she eventually blinked, and made a deal — seems to suggest the answer could be yes. But only if there are enough women and allies who care to shame her into doing it.

Even some business community reps parted from Quinn and Bloomberg's opposition to such legislation. As reported by Stephen Johnson in the "Amsterdam News,"
However, Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, stated in a letter to fellow members, that small businesses would not be hurt by paid sick leave.

“This legislation in no way impacts small businesses—such as mom-and-pop stores with less than 20 employees—that could not otherwise afford to compensate their employees with sick pay,” said Scissura. “In addition, we agree that the Department of Consumer Affairs enforce the bill and that it is to be phased in over time. Another victory is that we fought to move enforcement from the Department of Health to Consumer Affairs.”