Westchester County legislators and union officials this week held a press conference to introduce a bill that would allow employees of employers in the County to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually.
The enigma is that it does not guarantee any sick days to employees covered by a labor contract. Section 700.49 states that, in their labor contract, employers and unions in the grocery and constructions industries can waive the benefits and protections of the bill. Having a sick deli worker slicing your liverwurst or a sick cashier touching your groceries is no different than the fast food worker offering “flu with your fries?”
For industries other than grocery and construction, Section 700.49 allows employers and unions to waive the PSL law in their labor contract if they include “a comparable benefit.” A “comparable benefit” includes premium pay on holidays and Sundays as well as vacation time, personal time and sick time.
Is “premium rates on holidays and Sundays” “comparable” to PSL? One has nothing to do with the other. To state the obvious, premium pay is not time off from work. Having premium pay in a labor contract still leaves the sick employee having to choose between coming to work ill and a paycheck. In fact, premium pay may give a sick employee the incentive to come to work, which is the opposite of what a PSL law should do.
Also, just because a labor contract has premium pay for holidays and Sundays, and nearly all of them do, does not mean that the employee will ever have the opportunity to work on those premium pay days. In that case, the employee loses on both fronts–no sick days and no premium pay.
Why the linguistic gymnastics to deny bargaining unit employees paid sick days? It is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill. I have posted this entreaty before: help me understand.