For over a year now, I’ve been carefully considering a proposal that would require all businesses in New York City to provide paid sick leave for their workers. Throughout that time, I’ve been torn between a policy goal that I share, and real concerns about struggling businesses in a fragile economy.
I’ve heard passionate voices on both sides of the debate. I’ve heard from hard working parents who’ve had to choose between caring for a sick child and earning a needed paycheck.
And I’ve heard from small business owners who are fighting to survive. Many of them are working parents themselves. Their businesses are on the brink, and they fear that any new costs will put them under.
I’ve tried to work with both sides to reach a place of genuine compromise. A place that provides benefits to as many New Yorkers as possible. But a place that also protects the foundation of our city’s economy.
In the end, we were unable to bridge that divide. We were unable to satisfy the core values of those supporting this bill, while also protecting our most vulnerable small business owners.
In an ideal world, we’d be able to provide all benefits to every New Yorker. In a better economy, we might have the financial freedom to both expand benefits and create new jobs. But that’s not the reality we live in.
The reality is that nearly one in every ten New Yorkers remains unemployed. The reality is that more than 50,000 small businesses are already forced to close their doors every year. And the reality is that passing this bill would cost each of those business owners between 700 and 1200 dollars per employee.
That’s thousands of dollars a year, in a city where taxes and rents are high, at a time when consumer spending is low, and credit is hard to come by. At a time like this, those thousands of dollars could be the breaking point for a small business owner already stretched too thin.
Providing sick leave to working New Yorkers is a noble goal, and supporters of this bill have the best of intentions. But now is simply not the right time for a measure that threatens the survival of small business owners.
In the coming months, we will continue to fight for working New Yorkers. But we will do so in a way that protects both jobs and workers’ rights – a way that safeguards both our economic future and our values as a city.