Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s push to mandate paid vacations will mean fewer workers getting paid and more businesses vacating the city’s commercial corridors, several of leading industry groups warned.
As the City Council takes up a proposal the mayor endorsed in his State of the City address in January, a slew of organizations representing the city’s private sector noted that bigger companies usually already offer paid time off. But the bill applies to employers with as few as five employees and would put smaller businesses at risk, the business groups said in a letter to the council Friday.
“This law would impose significant compliance costs and would likely force employers to either cut staff or transition workers from permanent employees to freelancers,” the missive reads. It was penned by the Real Estate Board of New York, the NYC Hospitality Alliance, the Partnership for New York City, the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, the New York State Restaurant Association and the chambers of commerce from every borough except Brooklyn.
The letter points out that the proposal comes amid a raft of new requirements that the state and the city have imposed on businesses, including minimum-wage increases, sexual-harassment training, employee scheduling rules and paid family and sick leave.
The sick-leave law guarantees New York City workers five days off if they are unwell. The vacation bill would allow for 10 paid days off for any reason. For small operators, the cost of replacing workers will drive many to shut their doors, the letter said.
“We assure you that the empty storefronts that are increasingly visible around the city are not simply a result of rising rents but equally due to the increased difficulty for businesses with thin margins to survive in the over-regulated environment that New York has become,” the letter asserted. “For many retail and service businesses, rising rents and online competition are already threatening their survival and the significant costs of new employee benefits cannot be absorbed.”
De Blasio, at a rally he held in the City Hall rotunda ahead of a council hearing on the measure Tuesday, seemed to anticipate such claims. The mayor noted that “doubting Thomases” deployed similar arguments against other wage and labor laws passed in recent years, but the city’s economy and hiring have remained consistently strong.
“They will tell you, ‘When we do this, the city will start to lose jobs, people will be laid off, the economy will go to hell.’ They will tell you this,” he said. “Guess what? We have more jobs in New York City than we’ve ever had in our history!”
But critics point out that employment in the city’s restaurant industry declined last year after the minimum wage hit $15 an hour, and the city gained jobs as the national economy grew.