Efforts to mandate paid sick leave for private-sector workers in New Jersey gained some traction this week.
It's unclear whether Gov. Chris Christie would support such legislation, so a statewide coalition, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, has increased its focus on cities.
Newark's mandatory paid sick policy took effect in July, with full- and part-time workers earning an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, sick days would be capped at three annually; for businesses with more than 10 workers, the limit would be five days.
This week, advocates submitted petitions with more than 2,000 signatures in support of a similar policy to officials in Trenton. That could lead to a city council vote or a citywide vote on the November ballot.
Supporters say low-income residents with no paid leave face touch decisions if they become ill.
"People can often lose a job if they call out sick, when they're in these kind of low-wage jobs. I'm talking about people in retail, food service," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, a lead organizer of the Trenton initiative with New Jersey Citizen Action. "So people then go to work sick. And then you have a public health problem on your hands because nobody wants to go to a restaurant and be served their food by someone who is sick."
A Rutgers University analysis found that about 13,000 people in Trenton, or just under half the city's private workforce, don't have paid sick days.
The group has also organized similar petition efforts in Paterson, Montclair, Irvington, Passaic and East Orange, where council members recently backed the initiative.
While Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson supports the initiative, some business groups strongly oppose it, saying mandated sick leave takes flexibility away from companies and adds unnecessary administrative hurdles. The policy would be an undue burden for small businesses, one that could drive them out, said Robert Prunetti, president of the Mid-Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
"It's another tax for all intents and purposes on new businesses in the city of Trenton and existing businesses as well," he said.
Last year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed similar legislation, but has since formed a taskforce to review the impact of such policies. The group convened a public hearing Tuesday.
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