Tony Sandkamp (middle) and his team at Sandkamp Woodworks in Jersey City
In 2013, Jersey City became the first city in the state to pass a local ordinance -- allowing employees to earn paid sick days to use to recover from an illness or care for a sick or injured loved one. This past week, their City Council aimed to build on the success of the 2013 law and expand it to include part-time and temporary employees. With a 7-1 vote in favor, the City Council secured the right to choose between recovery and lost income for thousands of residents who were not previously covered by the 2013 law.
The Jersey City policy wasn't just expanded because it is the right thing to do, it was expanded because it works. Mayor Steven Fulop told the Hudson Reporter, “We’re extremely proud that, in 2013, we made Jersey City the first city in the state – and the sixth in the country – to pass paid sick leave. Since then, we’ve seen how well the legislation has worked – for businesses and workers alike – and I couldn’t be prouder to see the City Council approve legislation expanding and strengthening this crucial policy.”
Main Street New Jersey leader Tony Sandkamp was vocal in support of the 2013 law and the 2015 expansion. He told the Council that the law helps him retain employees, and the cost to retrain employees is much harder to manage than the cost of offering earned paid sick days. “My employees don’t abuse these sick days and tend to save them for when they really need them. Without paid sick leave employees feel the financial pressure to come in sick and they could infect other employees. This would cost business even more,” said Sandkamp.
Alliance member and owner of Lolo Organics Yonel Lettelier weighed in as well. “We have offered paid sick days to all our employees since the beginning,” said Lettelier. "As business owners we have to consider the human needs of our employees. If they are sick, or they need to care for a family member, they should not have to worry about not getting a paycheck.”
In Elizabeth, voters approved a ballot question that would grant over 25,000 of the city's workers the right to earn paid sick days. The Main Street Alliance of New Jersey endorsed the ballot measure and sent messages of support to over 10,000 voters. Elizabeth is now the 10th city in New Jersey to pass laws protecting workers and businesses.
New Jersey member Fariz Demiroski, owner of Bella Pizza in Elizabeth told reporters, "Tonight is a victory for Elizabeth's business owners as well as workers. When workers can earn paid sick days, they're more productive and less likely to spread germs to customers or coworkers. Earned sick days will be a big benefit to working families, small businesses, and Elizabeth as a whole."
Jersey City and Elizabeth join eight other cities in across the Granite State that have seen the benefit of earned paid sick day policies. Still, many municipalities across the state don't have such business-friendly protections in place. When cities fall behind on important issues like earned sick time workers and the business community suffer. The Main Street Alliance of New Jersey will continue to work with small business owners across the state to lift up their voices and encourage them to advocate for themselves and their communities.