Gotham Gazette Sun, 27 Sep 2020 17:48:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Paid Personal Time is the Right Thing To Do - and Benefits Both Workers and Employers bdb cmc public adv paid

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photo Office)

As a small business owner of a toy company in Brooklyn, and a working mother who employs a nanny and a house cleaner, I am standing up in support of the Paid Personal Time bill under consideration in the New York City Council. This piece of legislation would ensure that over a million New Yorkers, including domestic workers and other workforces, would have the right to paid vacation time, something I take for granted as an employer. 

One of the biggest motivations I had to be self-employed, was to have “the right” of having paid time off. I knew that by working for someone else, the right to paid vacation days wasn’t secured. As an employer and working mother, I can take the time I need to care for myself and be present for life’s special moments – taking my kids to their first day of school, seeing them graduate. I wouldn’t miss these moments for the world and it’s inhumane to think that some of the hardest working people in our city who need a break the most are denied this right.   

I know firsthand how an investment in workers pays dividends for employers. The success of my business and the caring environment at home for my children both depend on the hard labor of all my employees. 

At home, I provide my nanny almost six weeks paid vacation per year. I am also considering providing paid time off to our house cleaner in 2020 and have already started the conversation with her about signing up to Alia, a benefit program that provides paid time off to house cleaners.

At work, my business provides 16 days of paid vacation time and sick days annually to nine full-time employees. Additionally, my business partners and I are in talks to offer paid personal time to our two part-time employees next year. 

While these high-road practices definitely impact our bottom line, it pays off in the loyalty and dedication of our workforce. I know that having a happy and well-rested team contributes to the successful and productive results for my company. We all win. 

Passing paid personal time, we are also advancing women’s rights. From my 11 employees, 10 are women. As women, we know what it feels like to not be respected as a worker. For example, in the United States we don’t have a law to ensure paid maternity leave, affecting millions of working mothers and their children. My company, however, provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for full-time employees.

With Paid Personal Time we have an opportunity to set standards for gender equality. All employees should be treated as full human beings who have lives outside of work. For example, in November, which is the beginning of the high season for our business, one of my employees took paid personal time for her wedding. Our team came together to make that possible by preparing our strategy in advance and making sure other employees could cover her daily tasks.

As an employer, I strongly believe we can be good employers and have a successful business. I want my employees to balance their job with showing up and honoring the other aspects of their lives. If my employees feel treated with dignity and respect, they will be happier and more fully themselves. My family and business benefit from it too.

I understand that passing Paid Personal Time would demand that we add more vacation time required by the law, and that it might create an additional financial cost. However, it would also mean that families will take time off to eat in restaurants, go shopping, travel, and provide an injection to our local economy. I want my business to reflect my values in treating people with respect no matter what. I accept that this is the ethical cost of doing business and know that at the end I am building a strong and loyal team of employees. 

When I became an employer I knew I wanted to do the right thing for my employees.

For all of these reasons, I urge the City Council to pass Paid Personal Time and bring our city up to the standards of London, Paris, Tokyo, and other places that already guarantee this right for all workers. Let’s all make the necessary commitments recognizing equality and fairness for all workers and employers. 

Emma Katz is a member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network since 2018, the CEO of Hazel Village, a toy company located in Brooklyn, and a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens.

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Paid Personal Time is the Right Thing To Do - and Benefits Both Workers and Employers Mon, 23 Dec 2019 05:00:00 +0000
On Presidential Campaign Trail, De Blasio Promises Paid Vacation Law ‘This Year,’ But City Council Has No Timeline proposes mybdbd become

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

As he campaigns for president, Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly said that “this year” the city will pass a mandate that most businesses provide employees with two weeks of paid personal time each year, but the City Council, which would have to pass such legislation, has not committed to the timeline the mayor is touting.

De Blasio first announced his support for paid personal leave and said it would get done “this year” in his January State of the City, and he’s doubled down on that timeframe a number of times since, including during remarks at a U.S. Conference of Mayors session in late January, despite the fact that he has no public commitment of that sort from the city’s legislative body.

In May, the mayor led a rally for paid personal time legislation just ahead of the City Council’s initial hearing on the bill, which was first introduced in 2014 by then-City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is now the public advocate. De Blasio did not back the bill, which would expand the city’s paid sick leave law and is facing opposition from business owners, until five years later.

At the rally, both de Blasio and Williams said it would be passed this year.

The push has become a major talking point for de Blasio on the presidential campaign trail -- “we’re going to pass a law in New York this year, two weeks paid vacation for every working person,” he said this past Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos -- and he included the idea in his recently-unveiled “21st century workers’ bill of rights” campaign agenda.

But there has been no apparent movement on the bill since the May hearing, and it has just eight sponsors in the 51-seat City Council (including Williams, who as public advocate is a non-voting member of the Council but can sponsor bills).

Asked how the mayor could be so certain about it passing this year, a City Hall spokesperson for de Blasio, Laura Feyer, said in a statement, “Since the start of the year, we have been pushing hard and working nonstop with stakeholders and elected officials to get Paid Personal Time legislation passed this year. We look forward achieving this massive win so that New Yorkers get the time off they are owed.”

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told Gotham Gazette that the speaker continues to be supportive of the aims of the bill but has concerns about potential unintended consequences impacting small businesses. Unlike de Blasio, the Council has no set timetable in mind, the spokesperson said.

“The paid leave proposal is going through the legislative process,” a Council spokesperson wrote by email.

Williams remains optimistic, but he appears to have backed off any timeline. “As the bill goes through the legislative process, our office looks forward to continuing to work with the Council and Administration so that Paid Personal Time is no longer a privilege, but a right for all New Yorkers,” Williams said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Despite being asked, Williams did not comment on the timeframe for passage of the bill.

At the May rally, Williams said, “In a couple weeks or a couple months we are going to have paid personal time.”

At a January press conference not long after de Blasio announced his support for paid personal time, Johnson said he was supportive of the bill conceptually, but “it will go through the legislative process.”

“We want to hear from all the stakeholders. We want to hear from workers and small business owners,” he said. The Council created that opportunity in May. Before the hearing, de Blasio and Williams led their rally in support of the bill, while business owners and other critics led a rally in opposition. Proponents and opponents of the bill then testified before the Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee, chair by Council Member I. Daneek Miller. 

Miller’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation’s status and potential timeline for passage.

The legislation would require private employers with five or more employees to offer 10 days of paid personal leave annually, accrued based on employee service hours. For every 30 hours worked, an employee would earn one hour of paid personal time, with a maximum of 80 hours earned per year, according to the bill. De Blasio and other supporters of the legislation have pointed to similar programs in other countries, and lamented the United States as the only “industrialized” nation that does not mandate any paid personal leave.

New York City mandates paid sick leave for employers of the same size that would be affected by the proposed legislation, a law that was passed in late 2013 and then expanded multiple times by de Blasio and the City Council, beginning during the mayor’s first year in office in 2014.

“Working people have been working longer and harder with very little to show for it,” de Blasio said at the May rally. “Too many people in this city aren’t guaranteed any time off – not a single day. That’s not what New York City is about,” he said.

During Sunday’s interview on ABC, de Blasio said, “We need to do things like ensure a $15 minimum wage and paid vacation days....every country on Earth, every major country on Earth provides paid vacation days as a matter of law. Doesn’t happen in this country, we’re going to pass a law in New York this year, two weeks paid vacation for every working person.”

Later in the interview he said it again: “Look, in New York City, we've done pre-k for every child for free. We have done $15 minimum wage. We've done paid sick days. We're giving those two weeks paid vacation to every working person. We're literally guaranteeing health care for anyone who does not have health insurance. These things are happening in the nation's largest city.”

Small business owners and advocates have made their opposition to the paid personal time bill known over the last few months, saying that while they want to be able to give paid personal leave, they cannot afford to do so and would be on board if the city funded it. Up to 80 percent of small business owners are concerned that mandated paid personal leave would require “significant operational changes,” which could include letting workers go, according to a June survey of 1,471 small business owners.

Supporters for paid personal leave have found a rallying cry in 2014’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Law, citing similar pushback from small business owners at the time.

“Yeah, we heard that when we all did paid sick leave together, we heard that when we did the fair work week together, every time we heard the same refrain, it would hurt our economy and we would lose jobs. Well, guess what? We have more jobs in New York City than we've ever had in our history,” de Blasio said of opposition at the May rally.

by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Note: this story has been updated with comment from the mayor's office.

On Presidential Campaign Trail, De Blasio Promises Paid Vacation Law ‘This Year,’ But City Council Has No Timeline Tue, 30 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000