De Blasio, with encouragement, attacks Quinn on paid sick days and living wage

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At a mayoral forum last night on the issue of poverty, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio attacked Council Speaker and mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn on both the living wage bill she did pass and the paid sick leave bill she did not.

"The things that we need to do to address income disparity simply aren't being done," said de Blasio, at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem. "Income disparity, the greatest level we've had since the Great Depression, this is the issue of our times, so we need real living wage legislation, not the watered-down version we got last year."

He was interrupted by cheers from the audience.

"We need paid sick days in New York City," he continued.

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Louder cheers.

"And I say with all respect to Speaker Quinn, you've got to give us a vote on paid sick days now."

More loud cheers.

Quinn last year passed a relatively narrow living wage bill, and she has declined to bring a separate paid sick leave bill up for a vote, saying that she supports the concept but the economy isn't strong enough yet to support that sort of imposition on business.

At last night's forum, hosted by, among others, the building service workers union, 32BJ, and the anti-poverty group, the Community Service Society, moderator Brian Lehrer asked Quinn if she could explain how she would know that the economy is in fact healthy enough to support paid sick leave.

Quinn said that his question wasn't an easy one, but that "it is one we're working aggressively on trying to figure out."

"There's different factors one could theoretically look at: unemployment rates, closure rates of businesses, things of that nature, growth rates," she said, adding, "we still have an unemployment rate that is higher than the rest of the state and the rest of the country."

Lehrer asked again if there were any specific metric she could cite that would trigger her moving on paid sick leave.

"We are evaluating that," said Quinn.

By the time Lehrer got around to asking de Blasio a question, he was primed for the attack.

"It is precisely in a moment of economic crisis when people are hurting that we need paid sick day legislation passed," he said. "That is the fallacy. The fallacy of this is that in a moment of crisis, the government's supposed to step up. In the Great Depression, the government stepped up in Washington. LaGuardia stepped up here in the city. Mayor Bloomberg has looked the other way on living wage, on paid sick days, on so many other things that would give relief to the people when they need it most. And again, with all due respect to Speaker Quinn, her answer to me is not believable and more importantly ignores the reality on the ground."

The crowd whistled and cheered.