Opinion: Residents Form Committee for a Responsible Sick Leave Ordinance (UPDATED)


Residents Form Committee for a Responsible Sick Leave Ordinance

Update:This post previously listed names of persons named as committee members by the author. Harvey Susswein and Jerry Kapner have stated that their names were included erroneously. All names other than the author have been removed Baristanet will only add names that have been confirmed by email.

On November 4th, Montclair will vote on a proposed ordinance requiring all private sector employers in Montclair to provide sick leave to their employees. While universal sick leave is a laudable goal, we have significant questions regarding this ordinance. While we are generally in support of passage of a sensible local or state law to address this important topic, the proposed ordinance is not sensible. Instead it is a canned version of an ordinance that the proposers have been seeking to enact in various jurisdictions throughout New Jersey as a precursor to the passage a state wide law. Montclair is being used as a pawn in a larger political game and this proposed ordinance is a part of that effort.

• Montclair residents have not had any input into the creation of the ordinance. It was proposed at the last minute by its drafters to the Council which did not act in time to prevent a legal loophole from placing the ordinance on the upcoming ballot. Most Montclair residents likely have not read the ordinance and are unaware of its existence nor of the fact that the Council cannot amend it for three years. Is this backdoor approach the way to pass legislation that will impact so many people? Wouldn’t it be better to allow the Council to study the bill, have public comment and then enact it if necessary?


• How is the town going to pay for the enforcement of this ordinance? Where does Montclair get the money to hire new employees or assign existing employees to audit local businesses? Who pays for their training? Who pays for production of auditing materials for employees to utilize when enforcing the ordinance? Who pays for the attorney to prosecute these cases in municipal court on behalf of the town?

• Montclair employers are being unfairly lumped together by the ordinance. Montclair has many businesses, some of which employ dozens of people, some of which employ only a single employee, but the ordinance treats each the same. The ordinance even covers babysitters, providing them with up to five paid sick days per year. A sensible ordinance would take the size of the employer into account. This one doesn’t.

• Montclair’s overburdened municipal court is required to hear all cases involving the proposed ordinance. There is a fine of $2,000.00 that the court can impose, not only for failure to provide sick leave but also for failure to provide the correct paperwork, which is greater than the current fine for not obtaining a building permit. Is it sensible to fine a family $2,000 for not having the proper paperwork for their babysitter when a dangerous worksite is only subject to a $500 fine?

The proposed sick leave ordinance is a complicated piece of legislation. It needs to be scrutinized carefully by our local government before it is enacted. The manner in which this law is currently proposed is not fair to the employers and the residents of Montclair. We are sure that after you read it you will agree that a “No” vote on the proposed sick leave ordinance is appropriate.

Michael Shortt

Gerry Tobin
Bill Kopp
Elaine Sinisi
Diane Esty
Holly Felber

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  1. Agree.

    State Public Question # 2 also needs to be voted down. A constitutional amendment to facilitate more hunting! Only in NJ!

    Yes, token alms to historic preservation, etc. etc. for cover. Why not! Montclair used historic preservation the same way…and we honestly wonder why it has become marginalized. I wonder where we learned it from?

    In NJ, all public questions should be approached with considerable skepticism no matter how rosy the Interpretive Statement is.

  2. I don’t know Michael Shortt, have not signed on to any committee, and in fact favor the sick leave ballot question. There undoubtedly will be kinks to work out but it’s better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

    Harvey Susswein

  3. “A constitutional amendment to facilitate more hunting! ”

    I admit I’ve not followed this too closely, but what I saw in the Montclair Times only addressed open space. What/How/Where is this about hunting?


  4. This article’s content was also posted in the Montclair Times. The MT also included a counterpoint. The counterpoint left me very disturbed.

    As I noted in https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2014/10/montclair-vote-mandatory-sick-leave-ordinance/#comment-406044, this proposal is about denying choice. It denies that choice to employers and it denies that choice to employees. This is not per se a bad thing. For example, we deny children the right to work in coal mines. We deny coal miners the right to work in unsafe coal mines (at least in theory). While I suppose some libertarians might argue against these, I think that most of us wouldn’t question the net benefit of protecting against unsafe coal mines.

    So part of the question before us is: is this denial of choice worth the benefit?

    It’s a reasonable question. It is, perhaps, the key question. However, the letter arguing that the question should be passed doesn’t address this. In fact, it obscures it. Rather than explaining that the proposal would “require sick days”, it repeatedly claims that the proposal would only “allow sick days”.

    Employers and employees are already allowed to include sick days as a condition of employment. When I was still working in town, our benefits included sick days. If that were the goal, the question under discussion wouldn’t exist.

    https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2014/10/montclair-vote-mandatory-sick-leave-ordinance/#comment-406022 presents an example of the call banks promoting this question providing bad information. A friend reported something similar when she was called, and even my wife received bad information when she was asking questions of the caller.

    While a few examples of those could be the result of an overly enthusiastic but ill-informed caller, now we have this letter. This letter repeatedly misstates the result of this proposal.

    I am forced to question the intent behind any campaign dependent upon misinformation. It doesn’t help that one of the signers of this letter in the past may have done the same. He was quoted in a NYTimes article, printed one day before the election, carefully implying that some candidates for town council were members of a Montclair Tea Party.

    Those promoting this proposal seem to be among those questioning it. Even they apparently believe that a fully informed electorate would likely vote against it. The three year period during which it cannot be changed also speaks to this presumption that we’ll conclude that this is a bad thing for Montclair.

    If even those proposing and supporting this question think we’d conclude it’s bad for Montclair, then I think the proper choice fairly clear.


  5. Harvey –

    There was a miscommunication where we were told you had signed onto the editorial. We will email and ask to have your name removed from the list. We apologize for the mistake, it was entirely unintentional.

    -Michael Shortt

  6. Andrew,

    The purchase of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) were originally supported by hunting & fishing license fees. Then the Green Acres laws were changed so that about half the current WMAs were purchased with these funds. The NJDEP Stewardship Plans make hunting mandatory on any public lands using this funding.

    PS: A funny aside related to my point on historic preservation:
    The Star Ledger today used a file photo, taken by the BID, of the large turnout downtown for the Historic Walking Tour…for their article on the Sick Leave Ordinance!


  7. Frank:

    I believe I’m more ignorant on this than you realize. I’ve now read https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_Open_Space_Preservation_Funding_Amendment,_Public_Question_No._2_%282014%29 and I’ve also reviewed the changes proposed in https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_Open_Space_Preservation_Funding_Amendment,_Public_Question_No._2_%282014%29,_constitutional_changes but I’m still not following what you’ve written above.

    There’s nothing in Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 6 – either current or proposed – that I can see as referring to Wildlife Management Areas. Presumably, by “Green Acres laws”, you’re referring to something else. I’m afraid I don’t know to what.

    Are you suggesting (and I’m merely guessing here) that “lands for recreation and conservation purposes” paid for by the 6% (currently 4%) tax are required to support hunting?


  8. From the NJDEP website:
    “Losing access to a hunting spot on private land and/or thinking there are no places to hunt are among the top reasons cited by those who stop hunting or hunt less in New Jersey. While it is true that private land hunting access is becoming more challenging, New Jersey is fortunate to have a steadily increasing amount of public land open to hunting.”


  9. Frank:

    I really don’t mean to be a pest about this. The problem is that I was planning to vote yes – to increase my taxes – because I thought this about funding open space and that’s an issue I think worthy of some tax dollars.

    You’ve given me some pause, though. I want to look more closely given your comment about hunting. Yet – and this it the pesty part, I’m afraid – having read that link you provided I’m still missing the linkage between increasing the revenue source for funding open space purchases and hunting.

    It does mention that we in NJ “have a steadily increasing amount of public land open to hunting.” But how does this proposal change that?


  10. I, like Harvey, do not know Michael Shortt. I was never approached, or engaged on this issue by anyone on the “Committee”. I did not consent to be signer of this statement.

    Also, I share Harvey’s posted sentiments on the question at hand.

  11. Andrew,

    This fund currently allocates 15% ($15MM) EACH to Open Space and to Water Quality. The rest, about $73MM goes to Reducing Pollution.

    The new allocation will halve BOTH the allocation to Water Quality to $7.5MM and Reducing Pollution to $37MM. Open Space goes up 7x to $110MM.

    I’ll let you keep working on connecting the dots. I, myself, missed all the public outcry that drove such a large shift in funding. Keep in mind this is NJ.

  12. I would think the shift is because the land is disappearing and expensive, the connected dots is more acquisition. As far as tying this to hunting as the reason behind it, huh? Why wouldn’t it be open to sportsmen? They’re not the NRA, they buy licenses funding conservation and it’s over regulated in this state anyway. Are you suggesting any new acquisitions be hunt free and then you would support it? Seems convoluted logic; if you think there’s already enough money in the fund or object to the allocation % change, I’d be interested in those arguments.

  13. Yes, you inferred correctly. As much as I value setting aside open space, I am against this public spending to try and grow hunting in NJ because of my core belief against hunting.
    I know I’m in a small minority and even smaller if one is willing to compromise here. That’s why we vote.

    However, my overreaching point is that voters should understand what they are voting on. I don’t think this Public Question #2 was even minimally explored beyond the interpretive statement. I doubt NJ’s pollution and water quality issues are receding with the growing density. This is part of the reason Montclair wants to add another municipal water well.

    The other point I’ll make is the question of how we use public open space, specifically WMA’s.
    Should these wildlife areas be open to everyone, all the time? Should they be allowed to be developed to make them operate on a break-even or revenue generating basis?

    It’s kind of hard to have a wildlife management area fit the “serve all the public” model during the various hunting seasons. Mixing licensed hunters with unlicensed recreational types (e.g. hikers, campers, mountain bikers) is problematic. Just remember to bring your orange vests.

  14. This is a terrible ordinance because it is so onerous: it requires that a person work about eight weeks before one can accrue one measly 8-hour period of sick pay! You accrue sick time at the rate of one hour per 30 or 40 hours worked, depending on the kind of work you do! In other words, this law is so stingy and unfair to workers, it should be voted down! Some workers would only be able to get one sick day a year, maximum! Vote this bill down people.

    Here’s the language of the ordinance: accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour of paid sick time for each 30 hours worked; employees who provide food services, child care, or home health care, or who work for employers with ten or more employees would be entitled up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year, and other private-sector employees would be entitled up to 24 hours of paid sick leave each year?

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