It’s not just Newark

Promoted by Rosi. This is by Rob Duffey, Policy and Communications Coordinator for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance

Yesterday the Newark City Council passed a law that will allow nearly every single private sector worker in the city to earn paid sick days. It’s a huge victory for 38,000 workers (most of whom are low-income) but it also has significant implications for New Jersey and beyond. Here’s why:

Christie was irrelevant. One of the most pro-worker paid sick days laws in the country was passed right in Chris Christie’s New Jersey. The successes in Jersey City and now Newark, taken together with the minimum wage ballot initiative in November, show that progressives can still achieve their policy goals despite the power of Christie’s veto pen.  

This is a tremendously popular and powerful issue. A poll from Rutgers Eagleton and the Center for Women and Work, one of the leaders of the statewide New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, found that upwards of 80% of New Jerseyans support giving workers the right to earn paid sick days. And as Slate’s David Weigel writes, elected officials are looking at the heavy price politicians who have opposed paid sick days have paid and realizing that supporting paid sick days is good politics as well as good policy.

It’s one of the most progressive laws in the country. Much has been made of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to strengthen the paid sick days law by lowering the cut-off for workers to businesses with fewer than five employees. But even then Newark’s will be the stronger law: every private sector worker will be able to earn some sick days regardless of business size, and certain categories of workers such as food service or daycare workers can get extra days. There’s no denying it: Newark is a model for the state and the country.

These victories build on each other. What happened in Newark and Jersey City these last four months wouldn’t have been possible without the victory in New York last year. And the New York paid sick days law wouldn’t have been possible without San Francisco and Connecticut taking the lead years before. Each time we pass a paid sick days law it emboldens elected officials in cities and states across the country to do what’s right for their workers. Even better, the lived experiences of those cities demonstrate that the corporate lobby’s claims that paid sick days are bad for business are full of hot air.

Now we have a real opportunity to move the ball forward for New Jersey workers. Governor Christie has been severely weakened by Bridgegate. Democrats in the legislature are emboldened and mayors are less likely to feel intimidated now that every move Christie makes is scrutinized.

But it doesn’t happen without grassroots action. This victory was the result of months of effort by a broad and diverse coalition of community groups, advocacy organizations and labor unions that included the Working Families Alliance, New Jersey Time to Care, Citizen Action, SEIU32BJ, CWA, HPAE, the AARP, the ACLU and many more. It also required an outpouring of support from grassroots activists and working people. Over 10,000 Newark voters signed postcards declaring their support for paid sick days – and in a year when three of the City Council members are running for mayor their voices definitely had an impact.

If you want to take action and tell your legislators to come out in support of paid sick days statewide, click here. And if you want to get more involved with the campaign, shoot me an email at

Comment (1)

  1. Ms. Magoo

    Weird how progressive ideas supported by overwhelming majorities can manage to become law every once in a while.


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