New Jersey's second-largest city has passed legislation requiring businesses to offer employees paid sick days.
The Jersey City Council passed the earned sick days bill by a 7-1 vote on Wednesday night, and Democratic Mayor Steven Fulop supports it.
Once Fulop signs the bill, Jersey City will become the first city in the state and the sixth in the country to guarantee sick days.
Fulop, who was elected in May, praised the council's action. He said paid sick leave is not only a matter of basic human dignity but also a public health initiative that'll benefit all Jersey City residents and workers.
"Paid sick leave will help working families in Jersey City so they won't have to choose between missing a day of work and caring for their own health or that of a family member," he said in an emailed statement.
Workers were ecstatic. Security worker James Burks said the legislation means he no longer has to worry about losing pay or getting fired if he needs to take time off when his daughter gets sick.
"All families deserve that kind of basic security," he said, "and I'm proud that my city is doing its part to protect working families struggling to get by."
Workers' advocates said the bill will allow 30,000 private-sector employees in businesses with 10 or more employees to earn up to five paid sick days a year. They said employees of smaller businesses could earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time.
Family Values @ Work, a national network of 21 city and state coalitions, said policies like earned sick days aren't just about people's health, they're about the health of the economy.
"We applaud our member coalition in Jersey City, which moved quickly to implement common-sense policies that ensure workers will not risk their jobs when they or a loved one is sick," executive director Ellen Bravo said. "More than 30,000 Jersey City workers will no longer have to choose between following doctor's orders and putting food on the table."
Business groups, though, said they're concerned about reduced productivity and increased costs.
"It's really piling on the small businesses at a time when the economy is still struggling to recover," Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said earlier this month. "It has real-world impacts that are very, very hard for small businesses to absorb."