Thursday, September 10, 2015

Despite Suspicion, Paid Sick Leave Law Moved to Monday's Agenda

A paid sick leave ordinance will be up for first reading Monday, but the lines drawn in Spring between supporters and opponents remain the same.

The ordinance, which calls for one sick day earned per 30 days of employment, passed unanimously on first reading in February, but after business owners thronged a March meeting with objections, the ordinance was held for further discussion. The business contingent included many Spanish speakers, who said no translation had been provided. The ordinance was amended to be less burdensome to business owners, but in April it failed to pass.

Its reappearance Monday was rumored, although it was not on the printed agenda. Members of the public were already reacting to another rumor about the proposed outsourcing of the entire Planning Division Monday, and the climate of suspicion colored comments from the public and some council members.

"Someone is trying to sneak something in," Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said in asking why the matter was on the agenda.

Council President Bridget Rivers tried to make a motion to table the matter, but Corporation Counsel David Minchello reminded the governing body that at the agenda-fixing session the council could only seek a consensus to move it to the Sept. 14 agenda.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams traced the history of the ordinance, noting there had been five months for discussion. She said she and council members Cory Storch and Vera Greaves were co-sponsoring the legislation and hoped to get a total of five votes, drawing applause from supporters.

But Taylor objected, saying it was being done "undercover at the last minute." She said of Greaves, "Now my colleague is going to jump to the other side."

Though saying she wanted a "win-win," Taylor said, "Now you're going to sneak this in."

Taylor stressed her involvement with the Special Improvement District board and Rivers asked organizer Craig Garcia of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance whether his group had reached out to the business community, but two business owners criticized the group's methods. One, Jeffery Dunn, said the group was "making 7th grade moves." Garcia cited a community group, Families for Plainfield, but digital marketing expert Lenin Aguirre criticized their outreach.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp joined the discussion by recalling the origins of Labor Day and said if the labor movement had to gain the support of every corporation first, workers would not be enjoying the fruits of its efforts. Saying it was a strategy of some businesses in Plainfield to "delay and deny" the need for paid sick leave, he called it a "progressive, much-needed piece of legislation."

Taylor said the council had never met with the business community "to come to a win-win" and added, "I realize people who put this on the agenda had no intention of meeting with the business community."

Complaining about "pontificating from the mayor," she again charged that people were "playing games."

"I don't like shenanigans and games being played," she said.

Actually, Deputy Municipal Clerk Sherri Golden said the ordinance had inadvertently been left off the agenda during preparation.

As the discussion wore on, Councilwoman Diane Toliver suggested a meeting with all the business owners and the council present.

"You notify everybody, then when it comes back to the governing body it will be done right," Toliver said.

Councilman Cory Storch agreed there should be another meeting, but said, "Please do your best to take emotions out of this."

With that, Storch, Greaves, Toliver, Williams, Rivers and Councilwoman Tracey Brown (on speakerphone) agreed to put the legislation up for first reading, with Taylor the only one saying "no."

In public comment sessions before and after the consensus was achieved, speakers on both sides rehashed the issues. SID President Nimrod Webb called the rules harsh and said an estimated $6.25 additional cost to employers was "fuzzy math." He told Mapp, "I represent 400 businesses."

Carlos Ponton, a member of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District and the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, urged passage of the legislation, as did residents Richard Lear, Terri Slaughter-Cabbell, PACHA president Flor Gonzalez, Pastor Saafir Jenkins and Margarita Guillermo, who said her 18 years in human resources made her realize businesses lose money when employees come in sick, as they are not productive.

Besides Dunn, Aguirre and Webb, objectors included Donna Albanese of the SID board and Plainwood Square Merchants Association, SID Manager David Biagini and real estate broker John Campbell.

The regular City Council meeting is 8 p.m. Monday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. If the ordinance passes on first reading, it could be up for second reading and final passage on Tuesday, Oct. 13.



  1. Churches and non-profits are affected too. Their budgets have already been formulated, and no one is addressing the impact on churches and non-profits.

    1. For covered employees who use all sick days, it works out to a 3 1/3% labor cost increase until maximum coverage reached, and then it scales down. Is that doable?

  2. For the life of me I can not understand why the city is engaged in this legislation. We must have every other issue in the city resolved if we are now taking on state/federal issues. This will make Plainfield so attractive to businesses interested in moving into the area - not the greatest move for a city trying to make the most of economic opportunities.

    I certainly agree it is progressive and I think the policy is a good idea - I just don't think the city should be involved with this - especially right now.

    By the way - interesting that Mapp mentions labor day and how workers would not be enjoying the fruits of their labor - at the same time that he is trying to put employees in the planning department out of work.

    1. This piece of legislation will only push businesses away from Plainfield and keep businesses from coming into Plainfield. I think we should leave it up to the state to legislate this, as I'm not sure this was well thought out. I wish everyone had the skills and education to make a decent living, but not every business can afford this to pay well above minimum wage. We need to think about this more.

  3. I think we can all agree that every employee paying into the tax system should be entitled to some type of sick leave without penalty. However, this not anything that should be decided on municipal/city level. Is there a reason no one is asking our state Assemblyman Jerry Green to propose this legislation?

    Robin B

  4. A minor political party had arrived in town. Look up Working Families form 990.