Merchants are worried sick over paid leave


Honey Banin has managed Gruenbaum’s Bakery on Riverdale Avenue since her family opened the store nearly a decade ago. She said while the business has weathered the recession, having to give the bakery’s seven employees paid sick leave would be unaffordable.

“We want to be fair to our workers,” Ms. Banin said. “But if the business closed… would you rather have sick pay, or would you rather have a job?”

Making every business in the city with five or more employees provide paid sick leave became the first major legislative proposal of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term on Jan. 17. With support from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mr. de Blasio announced plans to expand a previous bill that required businesses with 15 or more workers to provide paid sick leave.

“This is going to be one city, where everyone has a shot and rises together,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement.

District 11 City Councilman Andrew Cohen endorsed the proposal.  “I think that people should not be forced to choose whether they eat or are sick,” he said in a phone interview. “People do get sick.”

Mr. Cohen said he expects the legislation to provide stability to low-wage workers in particular.

However, Sergio Villaverde, chairman of Community Board (CB) 8’s Economic Development Committee, said a number of small business owners are concerned the paid sick leave measure will add to their burdens in an already difficult economy.

“With the percentage of small businesses that go under, we have to balance the needs of businesses and workers,” said Mr. Villaverde, who added that CB 8 is yet to take an official stance on Mr. de Blasio’s proposal.

Mr. Villaverde said many small business owners and managers have the same benefits and obstacles as their employees. Ms. Banin, for instance, said she does not receive paid sick leave herself.

“The business owners are working people themselves, for the most part, and sitting in the same boat as their employees,” Mr. Villaverde said.

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