February 17, 2016

Working Mothers Urge Council to Pass Ordinance Allowing Paid Sick Time

Paid sick days, a concern that had been brought to Council in the past, arose again last week as a group of mothers who work in Princeton urged the Council to pass an ordinance that would guarantee the right of all private sector workers to earn paid sick time. “The Princeton Mothers for Earned Sick Days” said that allowing workers to earn paid sick time would keep local families and communities healthy, and make Princeton a fairer place to live and work.

“The issue of earned sick days is one of equity,” stated Council member Jenny Crumiller. “Everyone gets sick. The cost of employee sick days is a cost of doing business.”

The MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce, representing a number of business interests in the area, has expressed its opposition to a similar push in the State Senate in the form of proposed Senate bill 799, which would impose a mandatory sick leave requirement on all employers. Currently on hold in the Senate, the bill, according to the Chamber of Commerce, “is particularly concerning to the business community.” The Chamber of Commerce described the bill as “another unnecessary and costly mandate on New Jersey businesses,” which could “dramatically raise costs for employers and obstruct small business growth and opportunity.”

Princeton resident Leticia Fraga, who has announced that she will be running for Council, disagreed. “No one should ever be forced to make a terrible choice between their family’s health and their job, but for over 5,000 people in Princeton getting fired is as easy as their child catching the flu. This is a hard choice many parents have actually had to make. The Princeton Council should pass a strong earned sick time ordinance that ensures all working people can care for themselves or their family when illness strikes.”

Eleven other municipalities in the state have local paid sick time laws, including Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Bloomfield, Montclair, Trenton, Elizabeth, and New Brunswick.

“Guaranteeing the right to earn paid sick time will make Princeton a fairer place to work and a healthier place to live,” said Princeton resident Liliana Morenilla. “When parents send their sick children to school for fear of losing the job that lets them put food on the table, it puts their classmates at risk. When parents are forced to come to work sick themselves, it jeopardizes the health of co-workers and customers. Princeton Council members should pass this common sense measure without delay.”

“It’s a matter of being humane,” added Ms. Crumiller. “Sick workers at any pay level should not have to choose between coming to work sick and losing pay.” She went on to point out that “the ordinance will not be adding new cost to employers, rather it will be shifting the cost from the worker to the employer where it should be.”

“I’ve heard a lot of support in the community for this ordinance,” Ms. Crumiller stated, “and I fully support it.” Fellow council member Heather Howard added her encouragement, saying, “We’ve heard about a compelling need to take care of family members when they’re sick. It’s a question of economic justice.” Mayor Liz Lempert has stated that consideration of this ordinance is on the Council’s list of priorities for 2016, but it is not clear when it will come up for consideration. Other Council members were not available for comment.