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New York may be known for sex in the city, but Nancy Rankin at the Community Service Society of NY (CSSNY) has written a compelling report on a seamier topic: the unacceptably high percentages of New Yorkers without paid sick days, and the consequences for workers, their families, and for the economy.

“Still Sick in the City: What the Lack of Paid Leave Means for Working New Yorkers,” is an update of a 2009 report, based on the group’s annual survey of what it calls the “Unheard Third.” Rankin demonstrates how the continuing effects of the economic crisis have forced more people to go to work sick or lose crucial income or even their job. The findings underscore the urgency of guaranteeing that workers be allowed to earn paid sick days.

Rankin lays out her findings with words, charts and stories:

  • Today half of New Yorkers have no paid sick leave.
  • More than two in five (41%) have no paid time of any kind, not even vacation.
  • Things have gotten worse since pre-recession 2007, likely because of the increase in workers having to settle for part-time jobs without benefits or full-time positions that pay less and are less likely to offer paid time off.
  • Even moderate and high-income employees lost ground. Today only 58% in these groups earn paid sick days, as opposed to 62% in 2009.
  • Low-income Latinos fare the worst. More than three-fourths (76%) lack paid sick days.

Where do those without paid sick days work? Two-thirds are in firms that employ fewer than 50 – a key reason why the coalition in New York has insisted that legislation not exclude the vast majority of smaller employers. As Rankin points out, other changes in the bill do make it easier for small employers to comply.

If you hear “report” and think “boring,” think again. This one includes testimony from experts like Dr. William Jordan in the Bronx. He describes a man in his 50s who died because he didn’t seek treatment in time, Dr. Jordan, who says the man was ‘afraid of losing his job if he came to the doctor,” describes him as “another victim of a system that doesn’t provide time off for workers to seek health care.”

“Still Sick in the City,” like other polls, affirms that voters are paying attention to the paid sick days issue. New York voters who identify as Democrats say they are much less likely – 62% to 24% – to support candidates for mayor in 2013 who oppose paid sick days. A majority of Republicans and Independents agree.

For the full report, click here.

Cross posted with author permission from Family Values @ Work.


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