It would be very easy for Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a candidate for the Democratic mayoral nomination this year, to support a bill that would impose onerous mandates on employers to allow paid sick leave for employees. Her Democratic rivals support the bill, and now Ms. Quinn is being pressured by some of her prominent supporters, including feminist Gloria Steinem, to get behind the legislation. Ms. Steinem has said she will withdraw her support for the speaker unless she falls into line.
Thus far, Ms. Quinn is showing admirable leadership in resisting that pressure. This certainly will cost her votes from the special interests who tend to dominate the Democratic primary, but it should gain her the respect of New Yorkers worried about life after the Giuliani-Bloomberg era.
Under the Council proposal, thousands of small businesses around the city would be required to provide at least five paid sick days to employees. The business community regards the bill as a job-killer that would inevitably add to the city’s stubbornly high unemployment rate of 8.8 percent. Ms. Quinn clearly agrees.
Were it not for the speaker, the bill very likely would have made its way to Michael Bloomberg’s desk already—where it would have been vetoed, since the mayor also opposes the bill. Speaker Quinn has used her formidable power as speaker to keep the bill from coming to the floor for a vote. It may not seem fair, but that’s how the rules are written. Speaker Quinn is well within her rights to keep this bad bill under wraps.
Ms. Steinem and her allies have sought to transform the issue into one of gender equity—a disingenuous approach, considering that Ms. Quinn stands a good chance of becoming the city’s first female mayor in November. According to the bill’s supporters, guaranteed sick days will make “life fairer for all women.”
Actually, not all women will benefit—certainly not women who own small business and who would be adversely affected by this bill. Perhaps Ms. Steinem has forgotten that, thanks to advances she and others helped set in motion, women make up a substantial portion of the city’s small businesses owners.
Good intentions, as this city learned so painfully in the 1970s, often come with a cost, and sometimes that cost is unsustainable. The sick leave mandate fits that description. Let’s hope Speaker Quinn continues to show leadership on this
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