A VICTORY FOR PAID SICK LEAVE: The fight for paid sick leave is picking up steam. The latest—and sweetest—victory comes from New York City, where Democratic City Council Speaker and mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn has been refusing to bring a paid sick leave bill to a vote—for three straight years.
Some thirty-nine of fifty-one council members—a clear majority—supported a bill that would have required businesses with more than five employees to offer five days of paid sick leave per year. Roughly three-quarters of New Yorkers (including 60 percent of Republicans) said they would go even further and require employers to provide a full seven days. Yet Quinn, courting the city’s pro-business elite—and accepting $370,000 in campaign contributions from the bill’s opponents—held out, insisting she was protecting small business.
And so, as has been the case with every successful campaign for paid sick leave, people organized. Gloria Steinem sent Quinn a strongly worded letter signed by some 200 prominent women, from former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger to Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon. Unions came out in force, along with leaders in the black and Latino communities and prominent philanthropists like Jennifer Buffett. Groups from the Community Service Society to the Working Families Party put forward winning intellectual arguments and political strategies. And the netroots—especially younger feminists—galvanized around the issue.
The powerful grassroots effort made paid sick leave the central issue in the Democratic mayoral primary, and ultimately Quinn’s position as the only Democratic candidate opposed to the bill became a major liability. In late March, Quinn relented and agreed to a compromise measure requiring businesses with at least fifteen employees to provide five days of paid sick leave annually.
It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s proof of the power of everyday people whose cause is fairness and common sense. And now, with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others calling for a federal Healthy Families Act that would establish national sick day standards, this movement has a chance to sweep the entire country. America’s reached a tipping point—and we’re sick of waiting. KATRINA vanden HEUVEL
BEATING BIGOTS AT THEIR OWN GAME: Last July, a federal judge ruled that the First Amendment requires the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to allow the display of ads—bankrolled by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Pamela Geller—pushing an incendiary message. “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ads read. “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” The posters first appeared on city subway platforms and later spread to Washington, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago and San Francisco. But rather than stopping their fight against the Islamophobic ads following the court’s ruling, groups across the country have decided to flex their own First Amendment muscle.