Voters approve paid sick time off for part-time workers in Elizabeth

Photo By Peter Fiorilla A resident holds up a sign in support of paid, sick time off for Elizabeth part-time workers during a rally before the election. Voters approved the ballot initiative by a wide margin.
Photo By Peter Fiorilla
A resident holds up a sign in support of paid, sick time off for Elizabeth part-time workers during a rally before the election. Voters approved the ballot initiative by a wide margin.

ELIZABETH, NJ – Voters responded overwhelmingly positive to pass a ballot question calling for mandatory paid sick time off for part-time employees of both public and private businesses in Elizabeth. The city will be the 10th municipality in New Jersey to have such a law on the books.

By a margin of 3,037 to 563, voters adopted the ballot measure to create an “ordinance to add a new chapter to the ordinances of Elizabeth to promote the overall health and safety of the residents and workers of the City of Elizabeth by reducing the spread of

communicable disease and contagion by requiring a policy of paid sick leave for workers in Elizabeth,” according to the wording of

the initiative. Advocates for the measure say that about 25,000 workers who do not receive paid sick time off will benefit from this initiative.

The interpretative statement listed on the ballot read as follows:
“The ordinance would require private-sector employers to allow their employees to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour for each 30 hours worked. Employees who provide food service, child care, or home health care, or who work for employers with ten or more employees would be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. Other private-sector employees would be entitled to up to 24 hours of paid sick leave each year.”

The passage of the ballot measure was likely causing celebrations among some Elizabeth residents who recently held a candlelight vigil in front of city hall in support of the measure.

“Tonight is a tremendous victory for over 25,000 Elizabeth workers who will never again have to choose between their livelihood and their family’s health,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, in a release. “This vote is also a clear call to action for elected leaders in Trenton. New Jersey voters believe that paid sick days should be a basic workplace right, and we won’t stop until Trenton enacts a statewide bill that covers every worker in the state.”

The candle light vigil, held a week prior to the vote, featured around 50 people holding candles and listened to impassioned pleas in support of the measure.

In a release, the group said “Elizabeth mothers, community leaders and grassroots supporters” held the vigil to raise awareness about the local initiative. Many in the group put together a petition with more than the required 1,500 signatures needed to put the measure to a vote.

“If my child gets sick, I need to know that taking a day to care
for him won’t cost me my job or the pay I need to buy him medicine and put food in his mouth,” said Ana Hodges in the release. Hodges, the release says, was one of the first five to sign the petition.

Nine of the country’s 17 earned sick times laws can be found in New Jersey, including in Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton, and Bloomfield. Montclair’s and Trenton’s laws were also approved by ballot measures. Elizabeth is now the 1oth in the state.

According to a release from New Jersey Working Families, Elizabeth’s new earned sick time laws is nearly identical to New Jersey’s nine other municipal ordinances around New Jersey.

The new law allows private-sector workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Those that work in businesses with 10 or more employees can earn five paid sick days per year; workers in businesses with nine or fewer employees would be eligible to earn three 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 five sick days regardless of company size. The days can be used to care for themselves or for sick children, siblings, parents, grandparents or grandchildren.

“Nearly everyone in New Jersey supports paid sick days, because paid sick days support everyone,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska in a release. She is the associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action and a spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition. “Paid, sick days strengthen families, protect the economy and deliver tangible benefits for business. This is a common sense policy whose time has come in New Jersey, and we call on the New Jersey Legislature to pass a strong paid sick days bill without delay.”

According to New Jersey Working Families, a recent study of the impact of the Jersey City paid sick days ordinance conducted in April by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work found that businesses can benefit when their workers can earn paid sick days. Forty-two percent of Jersey City businesses that changed their policies to comply with the ordinance reported positive benefits, like reduced employee turnover, higher productivity and an improved candidate pool.

“Our findings in Jersey City reflect a growing academic consensus that paid, sick days provides measurable benefits to businesses and local economies,” said Karen White in a release. She is the 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. And when workers can earn paid sick time, they have money to spend on goods and services. Elizabeth just joined a growing number of New Jersey cities that have now decided paid sick days are a win-win for workers, employers, and local economies.”