New York CIR members saw more than two years of activism and advocacy pay off in a major victory for their patients and the city as a whole. On June 27, the New York City Council voted to overturn Mayor Bloomberg’s veto to make paid sick days a reality for all New Yorkers.
To help pass the Paid Sick Days bill, CIR members engaged in a campaign to help local officials understand the depth of the public health crisis caused by a lack of time off when ill and its great effect on some of the city’s most precarious workers. Dr. Michelle Espinoza, a Family Medicine resident at Jamaica Hospital, spoke out at a rally of healthcare professionals in favor of the new law.
“I’ve had multiple patients experience complications because they could not follow up with me, their primary care doctor,” said Dr. Espinoza. “One of my patients used all of her time off to take care of her daughter with cerebral palsy. When we discovered that she had lupus, she needed to come in for even the slightest cold yet she wouldn’t take time off for fear losing her job. She ended up in the ER with severe complications.”
Starting in April 2014, the law will require that businesses with 20 or more employees provide five paid days of sick leave. In October 2015, the requirement expands to small businesses with 15 or more employees. The law also protects workers from being fired for taking sick leave and also allows them to choose to work extra hours instead of taking sick time.
“I’m hopeful that this will really change things for my patients,” said Dr. Espinoza. “Our patients have been dealing with these struggles for so long, and I was glad that I could speak up and have some impact on this issue.
“When I tell my colleagues about my experience delivering a speech on the steps of city hall, I can tell they find that a daunting prospect, but my experience was positive. We get so bogged down in our day-to-day work that we don’t see how we can make a broader impact. But we are the future leaders in this changing profession. We have to speak up.”