ALBANY — The county Legislature, by a vote of 21-17, defeated a local law that would have dictated to private employers the terms of sick time for their employers.
“I am pleased that common sense prevailed and Democrats and Republican came together to defeat this proposal,” said Frank Mauriello, head of the Republican conference from Colonie. “I want to thank all of the employers that came out to speak against this proposal. No one is against the idea of paid sick time, but we are against powerful lobby and special interest groups who think employers are the piggy bank for their agenda.”
Citizen Action of New York was one of the groups who pushed hard for the local law that would basically allow a full and part time employer to accrue one hour of sick time per 30 hours of work. Employers with five or fewer workers would have to pay an hour of sick time per 40 hours worked. Paid sick time would have begun to accrue when the employee is hired, but an employee would not have been able to use it until he or she worked 90 days.
Sick time could have been used for mental or physical ailments and preventative care. It would have also included an employee who wanted to take time to care for a family member. It would also have included if an employee or a family member was the victim of a sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking which includes the participation of legal proceedings related to family offense matters, sexual offense, visitation, matrimonial issues and discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit. It would also have included time to report issues of domestic violence, meetings with the District Attorney’s Office and any other action necessary to “maintain, improve or restore the physical, psychological or economic health or safety or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.”
Documentation may be required for leave of more than three days and workers cannot be fired or otherwise hurt by an employer for taking paid sick time. According to Citizen 30 municipalities have paid sick time and that “employers see less staff turnover and greater employee satisfaction and there has been no documented increase in program or business closings.”
Albany County would have been in charge of making sure employers follow the law if it did pass with the Commission on Human Rights helping with judgement decisions.
“What ticks me off is why the supporters didn’t go up to the state Capitol and lobby the Democrats on that level,” said Legislator Gil Ethier, D-Cohoes,” who said on the floor he was in favor of the idea but voted against the law as it would apply only in Albany County. “That’s where it belongs. We have control of the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor’s Mansion. They are all controlled by Democrats. What an issue for Democrats and what an issue for organized labor.”
It would have applied to all private employers in Albany County. According to the legislation, some 40 percent of employees in Albany County do not have paid sick time and that access to it would promote a “healthy and safe county by reducing the spread of illness, reducing health care costs, reducing work-family conflict and providing greater flexibility to those with caregiving responsibilities.”
During the public hearings, though, the business community, including the Albany County Chamber of Commerce, came out against the idea and 12 Democrats broke ranks with their majority caucus and voted no.
“It is unfortunate that members are allowing a few falsehoods to determine legislation that could help employees, their families and the people those businesses serve,” said Andrew Joyce, chair of the Legislature. “My focus, moving forward, will be to ask our special committee on economic development to convene a group of business owners from all across Albany County to look into the potential effects of paid sick days and other legislation that could have an economic impact.”
Doug Bullock, D-Albany, a sponsor of the bill said “thousands of people won’t get paid sick days right now, but it will happen. This is a progressive item and we will bring this back up next year. Paid sick days are a human right.”
Mark Grimm, R-Albany, said it wasn’t about paid sick time. Rather, he said, “this is about the government telling a business or a non-profit what their sick policy must be. These unfair mandates are going to harm part-time job opportunities for teens and students and lead to more automation and fewer jobs.”
“This local law would have stepped inside boardrooms and offices and told small businesses and non-for-profits how to run their organizations,” added Legislator Todd Drake, R-Colonie, who is a local homebuilder. “Hourly wage jobs and community not-for-profit programs would have suffered as a result of this mandate.”
Legislators who voted no include Robert Beston, D-Watervliet; Paul Burgdorf, R-Colonie; Peter Crouse, R-Colonie; Patrice Lockart, R-Colonie; Charles Dawson, D-Glenmont; Todd Drake, R-Colonie; Peter Tunney, R-Colonie; Brian Hogan, R-Colonie; Frank Mauriello, R-Colonie; David Mayo, D-Latham; Richard Mendick, R-Glenmont; Mark Grimm, R-Guilderland; Mark Feeney, D-Guilderland; Charles Cahill, D-Guilderland; Victoria Plotsky, D-Clarksville; Christopher Smith, D-East Berne and Travis Stevens, R-Knox.
Those who voted yes include Alison McLean Lane, D-Colonie; Joe O’Brien, D-Colonie; Paul Miller, D-Guilderland; William Reinhardt, D-Slingerlands and Richard Touchette D-Coeymans.
Joanne Cunningham, D-Delmar, was absent.