PRINCETON: Council hears renewed calls for paid sick leave ordinance

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton council members this week heard renewed calls for them to require employers in town to give their workers paid sick time, an idea that officials say is a priority for this year despite pushback from the business community.
In an organized show of support, advocates appeared Monday at the council meeting to breathe new life into an issue that first came up last year but has not been acted on.
“One thing that we’ve heard from a lot of members of the business community is that they already offer paid sick days and that there’s no need for it in this town,” Craig Garcia, political director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, told the council in English and in Spanish for some in the audience. “But the truth is that that’s not at all the case. There’s many, many workers in this town, folks that live in this town, that live and work in Princeton, that don’t benefit from paid sick days.”
In particular, his group, a pro-labor political organization, wants an ordinance providing earned sick time that employees would accrue based on how many hours they work. Newark, for instance, requires one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
During the meeting, other supporters urged council members to act.
Juan Garcia, a resident of Leigh Avenue, said through a translator that he had been working for the same company for the past 15 years and, in that time, he’s never been paid for sick days or vacation days.
“I would be really thankful if you guys can find a solution to this because we’re all humans and we all get sick, so we all deserve, at least once a year, to get paid for that,” Mr. Juan Garcia said.
Luis Estrada, a Princeton High School student who translated for Mr. Garcia, told council he has been working for the past three years. He said it was unfair that some employees do not get sick days or even overtime.
Democratic council candidate Leticia Fraga joined the chorus of supporters. She said no one should have to choose between “their family’s health and their job.”
“But for over 5,000 people here in Princeton, getting fired is as easy as they or their children catching the flu,” she said.
For her part, Mayor Liz Lempert said this week that earned sick pay is an “important issue,” that she supports. She said Thursday that it is on the council’s list of priorities for 2016, although it’s not clear yet when it will come up for a vote.
“I’m anticipating that it will come up soon,” Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said Thursday.
She said she expects the measure would pass, “but you can never be sure until the actual vote.”
Officials plan to expand paid sick leave to all municipal employees who don’t already have that benefit. They would have to wait 120 days before becoming eligible.

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