Rabbis Pressure Christine Quinn Over Sick Leave

New York Mayoral Hopeful Opposes Business Requirement

Mayoral Wannabe: In what could be early jockeying for the 2013 New York mayoral race, liberal rabbis are pushing Christine Quinn to back a bill that would force most businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.
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Mayoral Wannabe: In what could be early jockeying for the 2013 New York mayoral race, liberal rabbis are pushing Christine Quinn to back a bill that would force most businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 25, 2012.
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The rabbis are looking for a mayor who is “sensitive to the issues of the vulnerable, of the workers who support the city,” said Rabbi Rolando Matalon, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and a co-sponsor of the rabbis’ letter. “If [Quinn] can support this bill, this act, it will send a message, a clear message, that she has these concerns in mind.”

While Quinn has opposed the New York City bill, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another presumptive mayoral contender, has offered vocal support of the proposal. Until 2010, he represented the liberal, heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope and the Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park in the City Council. “They could absolutely, easily vote for Bill de Blasio,” Tobman said of the city’s liberal Jews.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also supports paid sick leave, though it’s unclear whether he’ll run for mayor in 2013.

In a statement emailed to the Forward, Quinn restated her opposition to the paid sick leave law. “I believe providing paid sick leave to hard working families is a worthy and admirable goal,” Quinn wrote. “However, with the current state of the economy and so many businesses struggling to stay alive, I do not believe it would be wise to implement this policy, in this way, at this time.”

Some political observers thought the paid sick day issue and rabbis’ position wouldn’t carry much weight with city Jews. “Anytime a respected member of the clergy speaks out, public officials will always pay attention,” said Evan Stavisky, a partner at New York political consultancy The Parkside Group. “But does this mean that the congregants from these synagogues will vote specifically on this issue? That’s probably still an open question.”

Even some of the rabbinical signatories weren’t sure that the issue would impact the votes of their constituents. “The truth is it’s probably not a central issue on the agenda of most congregants,” said Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, former president of the Jewish Life Network and a signatory to the letter. Still, he added, “I personally felt it was morally a very significant one.”

Other signatories said that they hadn’t had the mayoral race in mind when signgin the letter. “This is a crucial labor right,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbbis for Human Rights – North America. “I want to know that people who are working hard are able to take care of themselves, health-wise, I want to know that if I go to a restaurant the people who are serving me don’t have the flu.”


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