De Blasio's progressive agenda: NYC to mandate paid vacation

- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed Wednesday to make the city the first in the country to require employers to offer paid vacation days.

"If you work hard and you don't get a break that's not fair," said the Democratic mayor, who said more than 500,000 full-time and part-time workers in the city currently have no paid vacation days or personal days. "New Yorkers need a break."

The announcement came the day after de Blasio announced a plan to spend $100 million a year on expanding health coverage for low-income New Yorkers and seemed intended to polish his credentials as a progressive leader.

"To be the fairest big city in America, New Yorkers can't be forced to choose between bringing home a paycheck and taking time off just to disconnect or spend time with loved ones," de Blasio said.

The legislation would require employers with five or more employees to offer 10 paid days off that could be used for any purpose. The number of required days off would be pro-rated for part-time workers.

The mandate would have to be passed by the City Council, a process that could take several months.

Experts said that if the legislation passes, New York City will be the first jurisdiction in the 50 states to mandate paid vacation.

"I'm not aware of any other state or city that requires it," said Rick McGahey, an economist at the New School for Social Research who served as an assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Labor Department during the Clinton administration.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico does mandate paid vacation days, McGahey said, as do most of the world's industrialized nations other than the United States.

Conservative organizations and groups that represent employers said the paid vacation mandate proposed in New York would hurt the city's economy.

"Most New York City employers are doing whatever they can to attract and keep good workers and do not need the government dictating their benefit policies," the Partnership for New York City, a business group, said in a statement.

Kevin Dugan, government affairs director for the New York State Restaurant Association, called the proposal "very concerning" to the restaurant industry. "Once a bill is released we would like to have a seat at the table and make sure that the City Council members along with the mayor's office understand the challenges that come up in the industry," he said.

Rachel Grezsler, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, "Coercive government mandates like this force employers to lay workers off, cut back on hours, reduce pay and other benefits and will force many to relocate outside of New York City to places where their businesses can survive."

McGahey said similar arguments were made against minimum wage increases adopted in New York City and elsewhere in recent years.

"We're not seeing any empirical evidence that there's job loss from minimum wage increases," he said. "If a minimum wage is not hurting employment it's hard to see how paid vacation days would."

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