Horses get plenty of sick days, so where’s ours? NYC workers rally for more sick days

July 15, 2010 | Alex Stone

From the New York Daily News:

horseDozens of city workers rallied in Central Park yesterday, demanding the City Council answer a rather unusual question: “You gave horses five weeks of vacation – Why not give humans sick days?”

Why not, indeed?

The Council’s concern for the well-being of the animals that work the city’s ironic horse-drawn cabs is commendable. But paid sick days to human laborers is much more urgent.

Consider this: Even before passage of the new law mandating vacation for the 202 licensed carriage horses, the animals were already protected by New York City law from having to work when suffering “from a physical condition or illness making it unsuitable for work.”

No such luck for some humans who are expected to keep trotting to work every day in sickness and in health.

That’s why workers without paid sick days protested yesterday in front of carriage horses in Central Park and demanded Council members end their stalling by bringing to a vote Intro 97, the Paid Sick Time Act.

The event was organized by Make the Road New York, and co-sponsored by A Better Balance, NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign, NYS Paid Leave Coalition, ROC-NY and the Working Families Party.

Several workers spoke about their experiences of having to work while sick for fear of being fired, or losing pay.

“The City Council needs to get its priorities straight – they’ve been busy standing up for hardworking horses while we wait for a vote in favor of hardworking humans,” said Noé Chametla, of Make the Road New York, who works at a deli in Astoria, Queens.

The legislation would give the 48% of working New Yorkers who now are without paid sick leave up to five days a year if employed at small businesses and up to nine days a year at large firms.

Not enough, but better than nothing.

The majority of the city’s private employers would fall into the small-businesses category, defined as fewer than 20 workers. Recent data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that paid sick days cost only 8 cents an hour for workers in private service occupations like restaurants.

An estimated 1.65 million workers in the city do not receive any paid sick leave, according to a study released by the Community Service Society and A Better Balance. Low-income earners suffer the most: 66% cannot take a paid day off when they get sick. Nor can an astounding 72% of Latino low-wage workers, the reports found.

The Council paralysis is not due to lack of support.

While the Paid Sick Time Act has a veto-proof majority of 36 Council co-sponsors, plus backing from the public advocate, the carriage horse bill garnered only 10 Council co-sponsors when it passed in April. The Council held a second hearing on the paid sick-days bill in May, but has still not scheduled a vote.

The problem is that Council Speaker Christine Quinn hasn’t had the horse sense to take a position on the bill, which makes it unclear when it will come to a vote.

But as Councilman James Sanders, chairman of the Council’s Labor Committee and one of the bill’s sponsors said, “This legislation has been studied sufficiently – two hearings and three studies. Now it is time to land this plane.”

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Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, Check, Column, Paid Sick Days


  1. Pitting one down-trodden group against another is not good. Here’s why.


    as workers demand to be treated as well as NYC’s carriage horses

    Workers who believe that the City’s carriage horses have it better than they do have mistakenly compared their plight – no sick-day pay – to the much beleaguered and exploited carriage horses. Buying into the media hype this past April, which touted the “five-week vacation” for horses, workers demanded that they be treated as well as the carriage horses.

    The truth is that carriage horses are forced by law to work nine hours a day, seven days a week confined between the shafts of their carriages, wearing blinders. They stand on scorching hot asphalt under the blazing sun with no shade on the hack line. They live in stalls that are less than half what experts recommend, on the upper floors in the warehouse like stables on the far west side of Manhattan. These exploited human workers have been misled into thinking the carriage horses have a good deal.

    “Horses are not people” said Elizabeth Forel, President of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. “While a five-week vacation would be welcomed by most people, it is a human concept. Horses are herd animals who need daily turnout to pasture – something they never get in NYC. “

    “This bogus bill, signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg in April, was a shameful claim to helping the horses,” said Edita Birnkrant, New York Director of Friends of Animals. “In fact, it was opposed by every animal protection group in NYC. The bill’s main purpose was a rate increase for the drivers. It did not help the horses at all. “

    Forel continues “Our recent rescue of a NYC carriage horse from the slaughter auctions in Pennsylvania came as a result of the horse being sent to a “farm” for his “vacation” according to a New York Times article.”

    Said Birnkrant “We fully support the effort of these workers to receive sick pay, but it is misguided to portray the exploitative carriage-horse industry as any kind of model for what they are trying to achieve. The horses forced to pull carriages in NYC live a life of misery, and that’s nothing to cheer about.”

    For the truth about the bogus bill referred to here, see our Youtube video


    Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
    PO Box 20247
    New York, NY 10025

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