Elizabeth, NJ voters say ‘YES!’ to paid sick days

Elizabeth Becomes 10th City in NJ to Guarantee Earned Sick Time for All

Voters in NJ’s 4th largest city approve local ballot initiative ensuring nearly every private sector worker can earn paid sick time

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A vigil for paid sick days days before the vote.

Elizabeth – Today Elizabeth voters approved a local ballot question that will guarantee the right of nearly every private sector worker in the city to earn paid sick time they can use to care for themselves or their family in the event of an illness. Elizabeth is the 10th New Jersey municipality to make paid sick time a basic workplace right. Advocates celebrated the news, saying the new ordinance would cover 25,000 more New Jersey workers who still lack paid sick days and serve as a call to action for the New Jersey Legislature to pass a strong statewide bill that protects all New Jerseyans.

“Tonight is a tremendous victory for over 25,000 Elizabeth workers who will never again have to choose between their livelihood and their family’s health,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “This vote is also a clear call to action for elected leaders in Trenton. New Jersey voters believe that paid sick days should be a basic workplace right, and we won’t stop until Trenton enacts a statewide bill that covers every worker in the state.”

Since Jersey City passed the state’s first earned sick time law in September 2013, communities throughout New Jersey have passed similar laws through their municipal councils or at the ballot box. Elected leaders in Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington and Bloomfield each approved the earned sick time model ordinance, and in November 2014 voters in Trenton and Montclair overwhelmingly approved their own earned sick time ballot questions. National outlet ThinkProgress called it ‘the biggest wave of paid sick days ever.’

“Nearly everyone in New Jersey supports paid sick days, because paid sick days support everyone,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action and a spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. “Paid sick days strengthen families, protect the economy and deliver tangible benefits for business. This is a common sense policy whose time has come in New Jersey, and we call on the New Jersey Legislature to pass a strong paid sick days bill without delay.”

Elizabeth’s new earned sick time laws is nearly identical to New Jersey’s nine other municipal ordinances around New Jersey. It allows private-sector workers to earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Those that work in businesses with 10 or more employees can earn 5 paid sick days per year; workers in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be eligible to earn 3 paid sick days per year. In addition, employees directly in contact with the public, such as food service and daycare workers would be eligible to earn 5 sick days regardless of company size. The days can be used to care for themselves or for sick children, siblings, parents, grandparents or grandchildren.

“Congratulations to Elizabeth residents for taking a stand for workers and families, “said Kevin Brown, 32BJ Vice President and NJ State Director. “The passage of this earned sick days referendum means that workers in Elizabeth will no longer have to fear they could lose pay or even their job if they need to stay home to recuperate from an illness or take care of a sick loved one.  And it will finally level the playing field at Newark Liberty International Airport where most workers in Terminal A, on the Elizabeth side, haven’t had the option to take a paid sick day unlike their counterparts on the Newark side of the airport.”

Paid sick days have found significant support from local small business owners in Elizabeth. The New Jersey Main Street Alliance, a coalition of small business owners throughout the Garden State, sent its endorsement of the ballot question to nearly 10,000 voters.

“Tonight is a victory for Elizabeth’s business owners as well as workers,” said Fariz Demiroski, owner of Bella Pizza in Elizabeth, and a member of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance. “When workers can earn paid sick days, they’re more productive and less likely to spread germs to customers or coworkers. Earned sick days will be a big benefit to working families, small businesses, and Elizabeth as a whole.”

A recent study of the impact of the Jersey City paid sick days ordinance conducted in April by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work found that businesses benefit when their workers can earn paid sick days. Forty-two percent of Jersey City businesses that changed their policies to comply with the ordinance reported positive benefits like reduced employee turnover, higher productivity and an improved candidate pool.

“Our findings in Jersey City reflect a growing academic consensus that paid sick days provides measurable benefits to businesses and local economies,” said Karen White, Director of the Working Families Program at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “When sick workers stay home, workplaces are healthier and more productive. And when workers can earn paid sick time, they have money to spend on goods and services. Elizabeth just joined a growing number of New Jersey cities that have now decided paid sick days are a win-win for workers, employers, and local economies.”

Coalition members of the New Jersey earned sick time municipal campaign include New Jersey Working Families, New Jersey Citizen Action, the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, BlueWave NJ, SEIU 32BJ, NJEA and CWA District 1.