Albany, NY – The New York Statewide Paid Leave Coalition (NYSPLC), including Citizen Action of New York, held a press conference today in Albany calling on legislators and the Governor to waste no time in passing strong paid sick leave legislation amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Nearly 1.3 million New Yorkers lack access to a single paid sick day. Addressing the lack of paid sick leave among low-income workers is of particular concern to the coalition. 

“No one wants to be in the position of catching up when facing a health emergency, but this is just where New York State is right now,” said Blue Carreker, campaigns manager at Citizen Action of New York and a facilitator with NYSPLC. “We need a thoughtful and comprehensive government response to COVID-19, including job protection, access to critical health care services and offsets for wages lost. In the rush to respond to this crisis, we cannot sacrifice critical and proven elements of basic statewide paid sick days policy. We need to learn from, and improve on, the lessons of states and municipalities that have gone before us. To protect worker rights and public health for the long run, we need legislation that includes at least the elements of the Governor’s original paid sick days proposal plus additional action to address COVID-19.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo took his statewide paid sick days proposal out of the budget and called on the Legislature to work with him on new legislation, which would include his initial proposal and a provision to help workers and employers impacted by the COVID-19 virus. NYSPLC leaders expressed guarded optimism about these new developments noting that the spread of the novel virus adds urgency as well as new complications to the initial policy. Advocates are urging the Governor and the Legislature to avoid compromises on paid sick days in the rush to address immediate concerns about COVID-19.

“The public health threat of COVID-19 highlights the impossible choice New York’s workers have long faced between caring for themselves or their sick family members, and their paycheck. With New York State currently in a declared state of emergency, we need a statewide paid sick leave law that will protect the health of our communities and ensure the economic security of New York’s 1.24 million workers who currently have no access to paid sick leave,” said Cassandra Gomez, staff attorney at A Better Balance. “A Better Balance was proud to be part of the coalition that worked to enact paid sick time in New York City and Westchester County, and we look forward to working with lawmakers to extend this fundamental workplace right statewide.”

“More than half of the 1.3 million workers in New York State without a single day of sick leave are in the bottom quartile of earnings, making under $22,000 a year,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research and advocacy at the Community Service Society of New York, an anti-poverty group that fought for the paid sick days law in New York City. “Following the CDC’s advice to stay home if you are sick means sacrificing a needed paycheck, falling behind in the rent, or worse, losing their job. That’s an economic and health nightmare for them, and a public health disaster for all of us. We support Governor Cuomo’s call for requiring employers to provide paid sick leave statewide and also support additional emergency measures to address immediate needs due to the coronavirus. We urge the legislature to pass these measures now.”

Marrisa Senteno, co-director at National Domestic Workers Alliance, said, “At the National Domestic Workers Alliance we see every day what the lack of paid sick days does to those on the front lines, with the least protections, and at the highest risks. Domestic workers take care of people’s families and homes, yet behind closed doors are often forgotten when it comes to the very rights that help mostly immigrant and women of color in the workforce. New York State has an opportunity to protect the workers who care for us. We must remember domestic workers and caregivers. In protecting them by assuring paid sick days, we also empower them to be part of the solution in keeping our homes and families cared for.”

“AARP supports this initiative as an important worker protection that will greatly benefit New York’s 50+ population and their families,” said Bill Ferris, the agency’s New York legislative representative. “This compassionate measure will enable more New Yorkers to focus on their and their families’ needs in time of illness or emergency while ensuring that they have a job to return to when they regain their health.  In addition, this will help to keep the workforce productive by limiting the unnecessary spread of illness to coworkers and business patrons now more than ever.” 

“All working people need and deserve paid sick days which is why all the unions are behind this legislation, regardless of whether our members are already guaranteed paid sick time,” said Mark Emanatian, director of the Capital District Area Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO). 

“Paid sick leave makes good economic sense for New York State. While pandemics heighten our awareness of it, the spread of disease is a perennial problem.  Without paid sick leave, workers often choose to work while sick, which ultimately hurts them, their business, and their broader community through which their illness proliferates,” said Bob Rossi, executive director of the New York Sustainable Business Council. “We cannot rely on the few business leaders who recognize the wisdom of paying their employees to stay home and recuperate. New York State must step up and protect its workforce.  A healthy citizenry is essential to a strong economy.”

“The Coronavirus outbreak underscores what we have known for a long time – when people can’t stay home when they are sick without fear of losing their jobs, the public health and economic impact is very negative,” said the Rev. Peter Cook, executive director for the New York Council of Churches. “Enacting sick leave is not only the humane and ethical thing to do but it is also essential for our collective and economic well being. Eleven other states have already passed paid sick leave and there is no reason that New York cannot do the same thing.”

The organizations that have signed on to the NYSPLC Statement of Support for Statewide Paid Sick Days include: SEIU1199 United Healthcare Workers East; AAUW Buffalo Branch; A Better Balance;  Albany County Central Federation of Labor; Capital District Area Labor Federation; Capital District Democratic Socialist Alliance; Citizen Action of New York; Community Service Society of New York; Coalition of Labor Union Women; Democratic Socialist Alliance;  Habitat for Humanity; Capital Region; Labor-Religion Coalition of New York; MomsRising, National Domestic Workers Alliance; New York Civil Liberties Union; New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault; New York State Council of Churches; New York Sustainable Business Alliance; One Fair Wage; Partnership for the Public Good; Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts; RWDSU; SEIU Local 200 United; Solidarity Committee of the Capital Region; United Auto Workers; Region 9A; United University Professions; and YMCA of Greater Rochester.