Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks At Hearing For Paid Sick Leave Bill

March 17, 2014

Streamed live on March 17, 2014

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Mayor de Blasio: Well, good morning everyone. This is the first opportunity I've had to be part of one of these ceremonies. And I'm honored to be here with my colleagues from the City Council, and so many great leaders from this city - what's really a historic day, as we take a huge step forward for the families of our city, and make sure so many more people are protected in terms of what they need when they are sick. I want to go into detail, but first let me talk about all of the people who made this legislation possible. It's really important at moments like this to give credit where credit is due. First, a particular thank you to the original sponsor of the paid sick leave bill, who fought for years and years to make sure it was given the vote and that it would become law - former Councilmember Gale Brewer, now Manhattan Borough President.

Then, for the bill before us today, Introductory Number 1-A-  it was sponsored at the request of our Administration by Speaker Mark-Viverito. I want to thank her so much for her extraordinary leadership to make sure over half a million more New Yorkers get paid sick leave coverage. I want to thank the speaker, I want to thank Council Members Chin  - these are all the co-sponsors - Council Members Chin, Cohen, Constantinides, Cornegy, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm, Eugene - thank you very much - Ferreras, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lancman, Lander, Levin, Levine, Mechaca, Miller - thank you - Reynoso, Richards - thank you -  Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Van Bramer, Barron, Espinal, Gibson, Palma, Dickens, Maisel, Mendez, Williams, Vacca, Cabrera, and Garodnick.

You know, sometimes we say we're at a historic moment. This is truly a historic day for New York City. This day earns that title. Half a million more people will have paid sick leave when they need it. Half a million more families will be protected.

You know, for people who don't have paid sick leave - a very tough choice they have to make, and they have to make it all the time. If they're sick, they have to go to work sick, probably get a lot sicker, probably get a lot of other people sick in the bargain. If they don't go to work, they're going to lose a day's pay. They're going to lose two days pay. They're going to lose a week's pay. For so many New Yorkers today, that's an almost insurmountable burden, because so many people are living paycheck to paycheck. 46 percent of our city at or near the poverty level, they don't have a day's pay to give away. They don't have a week's pay to give away.

And they certainly can't ignore the reality of their families - when a family member is sick and needs help, it's very very difficult to leave that family member behind. Or when a child is sick, if a parent can't take care of them, is their only option to send them to school sick, where they'll just get worse and make others sicker? That's not the New York City that I believe in. We can do better, and that's what this legislation is all about.

 Think about so many New York families, until this moment, waking up in the morning to a sick child or a sudden illness themselves - it's not just a stressful situation, it can literally throw a family into crisis. Think about a mother of two, at a minimum wage job - think about what it means to her to miss a day's pay, or two day's pay or a week's pay - can literally mean the difference between being able to pay the rent or not, or being able to put enough food on the table or not. That's how close to the edge so many New Yorkers are living. And what's holding them back is, when they're sick - up until now - they haven't had the protections they need.

We've made it our mission to lift up families who are struggling, to raise the floor for people trying to work their way to some kind of basic economic security. And that is the mark of a compassionate city, of a city that actually values families. We've heard the words "family values" for many decades. If we actually value families, we protect families. We pass laws that keep families intact, that keep them strong, that keep them economically viable. That's the kind of city I believe in.

I also believe in a city that values work. And we can only value work if we make sure that people's work provides enough for them to get by, knowing that their pay won't be interrupted, just because they got sick for no fault of their own, or their child got sick. If we're going to truly value work, we have to be consistent about it. It's also the mark of a city that actually cares about children, to make sure that parents can attend to their children when they're sick. It's the mark of a city that cares about our seniors to make sure that we can take care of our grandparents when they're sick.

You know, the benefits of paid sick leave extend far beyond the positive impact on individual families. It's also about making our businesses run better, and protecting the health and welfare of their customers. Our schools, our hospitals, and in fact, many employers themselves have noted the increased productivity that comes with a healthier workforce, the lower employee turnover, the reduced transmission of illness.

There are many other benefits to comprehensive sick leave coverage. This legislation builds on the progress that the City Council made last year - I've already been praising you in absentia, Gale Brewer-

Gale Brewer: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor:  - that the City Council made last year, passing a version of the original bill proposed by Councilmember Brewer. Well, this actually is getting to the core today, of the original bill proposed by Councilmember Brewer - truly comprehensive paid sick leave law. And we make significant enhancements that will extend those benefits to nearly half a million additional New Yorkers. That means people working at businesses with five or more employees - they will be covered as of this April 1st. Two weeks and one day from today.

The current law, although it represented progress, by this April 1st would only have covered folks who work in companies of 20 or more employees. Our law covers those who work in companies of five or more employees, starting this April 1st. We didn't want to phase in, we didn't want to wait, we didn't want people who were sick to suffer more, we didn't want families to fall backwards further economically, we wanted to do this now. And for so many people, they just couldn't wait, and now they know as of April 1st they will be protected.

In addition to extending the number of employees covered, this legislation makes important additional changes, including extending the opportunity for paid sick leave time to be used to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. By doing that we recognize that our families come in all shapes and sizes. You know, I think President Clinton said on the day of our inauguration, that my family and I represent a modern family. Well, there's a lot of modern families in New York City. There's a lot of families of all kinds. We love them all and we embrace them all equally. This legislation recognizes that reality and shows that government values each and every kind of family, each and every kind of caregiver. We need to give them the opportunity to provide that care.

This law is the first of many steps we are taking to fundamentally address inequality in this city, and make this a city where everyone rises together. I want to thank all of our partners who have devoted years to bringing us to this moment. I'm going to call up Gale Brewer in a moment, but again, I want to emphasize - when I spoke to Speaker Mark-Viverito about making this one of our first priorities, she eagerly embraced the mission, and my colleagues here from the City Council and so many others were enthusiastic to reach out this help to a half million more New Yorkers. They wanted it to be one of the top priorities. But again, when we give credit where credit is due, let's start at the beginning: the woman who pushed for this legislation, through good times and bad, and made sure it would come to fruition, Gale Brewer. I'm going to call you up - I realized I have to say a few more things before I call you up. Hold on. One second. Hold on, I jumped ahead the gun here.

I also want to - there's a lot of great people in this room who played a major, major role. Again, this is a long long struggle - wasn't easy, wasn't always on the front pages, was it, Martha Baker? So, to all the countless advocates and organizers who kept this reform at center stage in their agenda, even if it wasn't on the front pages, I want to thank them all, including A Better Balance, Make the Road New York, The Restaurant Opportunity Center of New York, the Paid Sick Leave Coalition, and many labor organizations, representing every type of work and walk of life in this city. I also want to thank members of our adminstration, who will be in the front line of implementing this new legislation, starting with our Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. I want to thank the leaders at the Consumer Affairs Department, Deputy Commissioners Alba Pico and Marla Tepper, and all the staff from my office who's taken a lead on this issue, and of course the law department, for all their work developing implementation plans that will serve and respect the interests of both businesses and workers for years to come. A few words in Spanish, if I may.

[speaks Spanish]

. . .

Mayor's Remarks on Introductory Number 98:

Mayor: Thank you so much. I would remind everyone, Esmeralda's been in business about 10 years, and she's had at least one of her employees the whole time because she's created an atmosphere where people can live and work the right way, so congratulations to you, Esmeralda. I believe that's the last individual who requested to speak, and if that is the case, we will move on to the second piece of legislation. I look forward to signing the paid sick leave bill later this week. We'll have the formal signing ceremony. If anyone needs to leave at this moment, understood, but let's go on to the second bill.

The second bill before us also speaks to a specific family in need, based on a tragedy, it's Introductory Number 98, sponsored at the request of our administration by Council Members Miller, Arroya, Rose and Williams. I'll tell you this story, and it's a painful one. Aaron J. Thomas, a Department of Environmental Protection employee was shot and killed by a coworker in the early morning hours of Monday, February 3rd at a DEP building in Kingston, New York. Mr. Thomas worked as a watershed maintainer, and had been with the Agency for nearly nine years. In his role, he helped maintain the lands and infrastructure upstate to deliver water to the people of New York City. He played a very important role and he did it well. He was 33 years old, he leaves behind a wife, Susan, and two infant children, Everett and Brooke Ann. The legislation before us today extends health insurance benefits that Mr. Thomas had earned to his surviving wife and children.

I'd like to thank the Department of Environmental Protection, and our new commissioner Emily Lloyd, and all of her staff for their work on this important legislation, along with the staff of the City Law Department. I'd also like to thank the City Council for approving the legislation. I'd like to call forward the prime sponsor of the legislation, Councilmember Daneek Miller, followed by the Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, Councilmember Donovan Richards.

Councilmember Daneek Miller: Once again, Mr. Mayor, thank you again for your leadership on this important issue, that shows us that this city and this administration respects the value of working people, and the services that they provide to our great city. Mr. Thomas, unfortunately, was killed as the mayor indicated, and unfortunately, up until now, we have these isolated individual occurrences that we have to go back and have to have legislation that, that would ensure the family, the dependent family members, that they will continue to have the benefits that they were afforded, and were entitled to before they lost their family member. So, I'm so grateful to be a part of this, and to demonstrate the respect and value that we have for working people here in the city of New York, and that we could have those agencies involved. Unfortunately, it is something that requires legislation because of the collective bargaining agreements, it does not occur, that we just, as you know, that two weeks ago, we had a transit worker, Mr. William Pena, who was struck and killed by a truck, which was being operated by someone who had stolen the truck. And he was killed, and to this day his family will not be receiving those benefits unless there is similar legislation brought forth. So, it's something that is certainly in tune with the progressive values of this administration and this council and that we look forward to the day when we don't have to do this, that when men and women that serve the city of New York are valued in a way that when they lose their lives in the service of the city, that their family members continue their benefits. So, I thank you Mr. Mayor and I thank my colleagues for making this happen.

Mayor: Thank you Councilmember, now, Chair Richards.

Councilmember Donovan Richards: Just want to echo with what my colleagues said, and thank the Mayor for this. You know, many of our DEP workers - they do a thankless job every day. They put their lives on the line every day, to make sure we have the best quality water in the world and in this country, and that's a very thankless job, so the least we can do is to make sure, when they put their lives on the line every day that we reciprocate them, with what they would have done for us. And you know, it's an unfortunate situation that this had to happen to this young man and his family, but I'm just happy that his family will now be able to have benefits after he has done so much for this city. Thank you Mayor de Blasio and thank you Deneek Miller. Congratulations on your first bill. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you very much. We had no individuals who signed up as speakers from the general public, so with that, I will say we will also look forward to signing this piece of legislation later this week and making sure that this family is protected going forward. With that, thank you everyone, for participating in this historic occasion today, and we look forward to seeing you at the bill signing later in the week.