The way around Quinn, if Paid Sick supporters dare to try
The latest push to get City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to allow a vote on the Paid Sick legislation is a petition being circulated by feminist icon (and conditional Quinn supporter) Gloria Steinem and Ai-jen Poo, a founder of the Domestic Workers Alliance and one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People.
As it stands, the bill has 36 sponsors—more than enough to pass, and override a mayoral veto—but Quinn has yet to allow a vote on it.
While both sides of the issue have focused their efforts on swaying Quinn, it's worth keeping in mind that technically speaking, there is a way around the speaker.
Under the rules of the City Council, the lead sponsor of the legislation—along with seven supporters—can file a "Motion to Discharge" which, if passed by a majority in the Council, would allow the bill to be brought forward for a vote.
(In 2006, the rules were amended to actually make it easier to file a motion to discharge. At the time, Councilman Dan Garodnick said this and other rules changes "shifts power to individual members and gives them more of an ability to do their job for constituents.")
At this point, the lead sponsor of the bill, Gale Brewer of Manhattan, has not exercised that option.
In an interview, Brewer said she's still optimistic a deal can be struck with Quinn.
"I still think we haven't had a full discussion about it," Brewer said. "I think there is still room for compromise."
Brewer said potential areas of compromise include the number of sick days employers would be required to cover, along with the size of businesses that would be affected by the legislation, and the date it would go into effect.
"There's ways you could work on it," she said.
No Council member has ever executed a "Motion to Discharge" during Quinn's tenure, for fear of a potential backlash from the speaker, who controls budget and staffing positions in the chamber and is currently the leading contender for mayor.
And supporters of the bill have yet to press for such a motion, with an intense lobbying effort—coming from both sides—so far directed solely at Quinn.
The Times recently editorialized in support of it, urging her to pass the measure and to lobby Governor Andrew Cuomo to do the same. Organized labor is reaching out to voters and telling them that Quinn is standing in the way of the bill's passage.
The New York Post editorialized against the bill, and its publisher Rupert Murdoch tweeted that the measure was "absurd." Business executives recently sent Quinn a letter urging her not to pass the bill.
At an appearance this afternoon at a Park Slope senior center, Quinn fielded a few questions from residents, mostly about the closure of a local super market, and how to improve bus routes and access cheaper housing. She did not stop to answer a question about the Paid Sick legislation.
UPDATE: After the event, I emailed Quinn's spokespeople and asked if there are specific economic indicators that will determine when the economy is in a position where she would consider passing the bill. There are not, I was told by a spokesperson who also passed along this statement from Quinn restating her support for the concept behind the Paid Sick legislation.
"I believe providing paid sick leave to hardworking families is a worthy and admirable goal, one I would like to make available for all. 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.
"I stand by the commitment I made more than a year ago -- to continue to meet and discuss the legislation, in the context of the evolving economy, with Council leaders and the Paid Sick Coalition."