Newark Passes The Country’s Eighth Paid Sick Leave Law

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The city council in Newark, New Jersey just passed a paid sick days law, which Mayor Luis Quintana (D) has promised to sign, which will make it the eighth such law passed in the country.

The law would ensure that workers in businesses with 10 or more employees, including food service, child care, and direct care workers, can earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 that they work, requiring employers to provide up to five paid days off a year. Those who work in smaller businesses could earn up to three days a year. The time off can be used to recover from a worker’s own illness, as well as to care for a sick family member. Proponents say that 38,000 workers currently don’t have access to paid sick leave in the city.

The law is the second in the state of New Jersey, coming just months after Jersey City’s mayor signed one into law, which went into effect on Friday. Its passage puts more pressure on statewide lawmakers to take action after a bill to enact paid sick days for all of the state’s workers was introduced last spring. Activists are positive that a bill will make it to Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) desk before the end of his term. While the state is one of just three that guarantees workers can take paid time off for the arrival of a new child, activists say that 1.2 million workers in the state don’t have access to paid sick days.

There are many other efforts to enact paid sick days legislation elsewhere. Lawmakers and activists are pushing bills in California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon, and Vermont as well as Tacoma, WA. The new mayor of New York City is also pushing an expansion of its current law and Washington, D.C. recently passed an expansion of its own. Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; and the state of Connecticut also have laws on their books. A bill to ensure that all of the country’s workers can take paid leave for an illness has been introduced at the federal level but thus far hasn’t gone anywhere. The United States is the only country out of the 15 most competitive that doesn’t guarantee paid sick days to all workers, leaving 40 percent in the private sector without access to the leave.

But even with the steady march of progress on paid sick days bills, the opposition has also seen a string of successes. Ten states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — have enacted preemption bills that block cities and localities from passing paid sick leave legislation. Similar bills had been introduced in least 14 state legislatures as of the end of last year.