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Clergy In Albany Seek Paid Sick Time For County Workers

"We join the growing number of Albany County faith leaders in the calling for the passage of Local Law C,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
"We join the growing number of Albany County faith leaders in the calling for the passage of Local Law C,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York";

Area clergy gathered outside the Albany County Building Monday to call on legislators to support guaranteed paid sick days.

With the advance of so-called "service economy" jobs, several municipalities have passed legislation requiring sick time.

Albany faith leaders argue that paid sick days are a moral issue, as well as an economic one. Pastor Renee Hollinshed of Soujourner Truth AME Zion Church was among the religious leaders asking the county legislature to immediately pass Local Law C, which would allow all workers in Albany County to accrue a minimum number of paid sick days.   "To provide a law that dispels the myth that low-income, part-time or even seasonal workers are not worthy of the same benefits provided to other income classes of people."

A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds that an estimated 40 percent of workers living in Albany County lack even a single paid sick day.   "The health and the health of their families, as well as the health of their co-workers and consumers they serve is paramount to reduce the spread of illness. Imagine the ripple effect one employee's illness can have in the workplace. The paid sick day is not just about the employee, but it's about the health of the employer's business as well as the public."

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, a Democrat, supports the measure.  "This legislation will result in a healthier workplace, improve child and family wellbeing and reduce health care costs. It will also result in more productive work and will benefit employees by increasing their bottom line."

According to Citizen Action of New York, 74 percent of Albany County part-time workers and 66 percent of service workers lack paid sick days, with  transportation, construction and sales workers also affected.

Peter Cook is Executive Director of the New York State Council of Churches.  "This proposal to offer paid sick leave to people who work in Albany County is really quite modest. Up to 72 paid hours for our largest employers. Employers with 6 to 10 employees will be required to only provide up to 40 paid hours, and employers with five or less employees are required to provide up to 40 hours, but those hours are unpaid."

Five states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws. In his State of the Union, President Donald Trump urged Congress to support paid family leave.

A spokesperson for the Republican minority conference says the bill has already had its public hearing and goes to the law committee on August 27th.  Democratic Legislator Doug Bullock says If amendments to the measure go through committee, a hearing would likely be scheduled for September 25th , then go back to committee for approval before a full vote by the legislature, likely in October. It would need 20 votes to pass.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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