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Earned Sick Time Questions Prevail at Voting Booth in Trenton & Montclair

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Eight NJ cities have now passed local earned sick time laws in a little over a year, driving momentum for a statewide bill that will cover 1.2 million workers

Eight NJ cities have now passed local earned sick time laws in a little over a year, driving momentum for a statewide bill that will cover 1.2 million workers

Eight NJ cities have now passed local earned sick time laws in a little over a year, driving momentum for a statewide bill that will cover 1.2 million workers

Voters in Montclair and Trenton added their cities to the growing wave of New Jersey municipalities that have passed local earned sick time laws. After tonight’s victory at the voting booth, an additional 20,000 New Jerseyans will be able to earn paid sick time they can use to care for themselves or their families when illness strikes.

The victory comes after an intensive voter education campaign, in which a coalition of community and labor organizations knocked on 8,000 doors and sent 60,000 pieces of mail to voters in both communities. The coalition celebrated the news, saying the policy would strengthen both communities while adding to the already considerable momentum for a statewide bill that will cover an additional 1.2 million New Jerseyans.

“Tonight’s victories ensure that, for 20,000 more New Jersey workers, a case of the flu or a sick child won’t mean losing pay or getting fired,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families. “Tonight is proof positive that earned sick time policies command powerful support among New Jerseyans. Governor Christie and legislators should take note: this train won’t stop until we have a statewide bill that covers every worker in the state.”

Trenton and Montclair’s new earned sick time laws are modeled after the Newark law that went into effect earlier this summer. They allow private-sector workers to earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Those that work in businesses with 10 or more employees can earn 5 paid sick days per year; workers in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be eligible to earn 3 paid sick days per year. In addition, employees directly in contact with the public, such as food service and daycare workers would be eligible to earn 5 sick days regardless of company size. The days can be used to care for themselves or for sick children, siblings, parents, grandparents or grandchildren.

“Trenton and Montclair voters just delivered meaningful economic security to working women and families in their communities while making their towns healthier, fairer places to live and work,” said Phyllis Salowe Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action and spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. “Voters have affirmed what the polls already showed us: this is a common sense policy that New Jerseyans want to see made the law of the land.”

Local earned sick days laws are spreading rapidly through New Jersey as part of a carefully coordinated campaign to build support for a statewide initiative that would cover all of the 1.2 million New Jersey workers who lack paid sick days. Earned sick time laws went into effect in Newark and Jersey City earlier this year, and in September four more New Jersey municipalities adopted laws virtually identical to Newark’s. Onenational outletcalled it, ‘The biggest wave of paid sick day victories ever.’

The strategy of building momentum for a statewide law with a wave of local victories is paying off. Just a day after residents in Trenton, Montclair, and four other communities triggered the local ballot initiative process in early September, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced that the earned sick time bill would get its first legislative hearing. In October, the bill passed out of committee.

"It's great to see this common sense initiative get a thumbs up from voters," said Naomi Johnson, President of the Trenton Education Association. "When parents can take the time to care for a sick child without fear of pay cuts or job loss, our kids and classrooms are that much healthier. I hope legislators in the Statehouse are paying close attention tonight and rally behind a law that covers all New Jersey workers."

The local and statewide campaigns for earned sick time have found significant support from small business owners. Business owners affiliated with the New Jersey Main Street Alliancehosted campaign eventsand wroteopinion piecesin support of the law. In East Orange the President of the local Chamber of Commerceendorsedits ordinance prior to passage, saying it would reduce turnover and attract high-quality workers to local businesses.

“As a Montclair resident, I was proud to vote yes on our earned sick time initiative,” said Marcia Marley, President of BlueWave New Jersey. “This is democracy at its best: friends and neighbors coming together and voting to strengthen our families, communities and local businesses. This will make a big difference in the lives of so many people, and it’s great to see our two towns join this growing movement for workers rights.”

Jersey City’s employment rates haveoutpaced the rest of the statesince enacting New Jersey’s first earned sick time law in January, mirroring positive effects found inSan FranciscoandSeattlesubsequent to the passage of earned sick time laws.

“The research shows that workers coming to work sick costs $180 billion annually, far more than the cost of workers taking the time to get well,” said Karen White, Director of the Working Families Program at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “When sick workers stay home, workplaces are healthier and more productive. By letting workers earn sick time businesses put money in the pockets of low-income workers who go out into the marketplace and spend it on goods and services. And a growing number of New Jersey cities are now deciding it’s a win-win for workers, employers, and local economies.”

Coalition members of the New Jersey earned sick time municipal campaign include New Jersey Working Families, New Jersey Citizen Action, the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, New Jersey Communities United, BlueWave NJ, SEIU 32BJ, and CWA District 1.

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