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Greenlight Bookstore Responds to Paid Vacation Legislation

Wednesday, January 23, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kit Little
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Dear New York City Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Matthieu Eugene,
Mayor de Blasio made an unexpected and dramatic statement last week with the announcement that he is seeking paid time off for all private sector employees.  The decision about whether and how to implement this proposal will be up to you, and we encourage you to think clearly and broadly about the issues at stake and how this may affect the districts you represent.
New York is a progressive city, and as small business owners we are proud to be a part of that.  Our independent bookstore has thrived for ten years as a space for ideas and conversations, often about social justice issues.  We also work hard to give our employees a fair and inclusive workplace and a good quality of life.  Like many local businesses, we are in favor of government, both local and national, thinking more about the quality of life of its working class citizens, rather than of its richest donors. 
But New York cannot solve the massive issue of worker fairness by simply dropping it in the lap of its local business owners.  
These are the same New Yorkers who have been squeezed by astronomical commercial rents, slim margins, and rising operating costs, leaving entire neighborhoods full of empty storefronts.  
These are the New Yorkers who have recently had to absorb a rapidly escalating minimum wage, with little time to adjust to the costs that need to be balanced in order to manage this.
These are the New Yorkers who have watched as de Blasio and Cuomo offered $1.5 billion in incentives to Amazon in order to bring their new headquarters to Queens.  This move has drawn sharp and ongoing criticism from many residents and progressive groups, who are well acquainted with Amazon’s history of aggressive business practices and labor violations, and its material support of ICE – which doesn’t fit well with de Blasio’s image of New York as a sanctuary city.  
No community groups were consulted in advance on this action – just as no one was consulted on the announcement regarding paid vacations.  
Local businesses have been asked to give more and more: paid sick leave, quickly escalated minimum wage, and now potentially paid vacation.  At the same time, Amazon is being offered massive financial incentives before hiring a single local worker or adding a penny to New York’s infrastructure.
Don’t get us wrong: we think all New Yorkers – indeed, all humans – deserve fair pay, benefits, and a good quality of life.  But in the interest of worker fairness, de Blasio seems not to have considered fairness to local businesses, including the small business that employ over half of private sector employees in the city.  
There is no support offered in exchange for these financial asks – it appears that our progressive city has not even studied any possible solutions for local businesses who may be struggling with these new realities.  Faced with these increasing costs, many local businesses will simply close, or move elsewhere.
We and our fellow small business owners want to support this move in favor of worker fairness.  But we can’t do it on our own; the city has to help.  We can’t support our workers if our business is not sustainable.  We can’t be part of this progressive city if we can’t make ends meet.  Over half of New York City’s four million private sector employees depend on us for their jobs; please work with us to make sure we can stay around to provide them.
Therefore, we are asking the City Council to consider the following actions as it addresses paid vacation legislation:
- Exempt businesses under 50 employees – those who are most likely to be operating with razor-thin profit margins.
- Increase tax credits for small businesses– to help to shoulder the burden of increasing costs.
- Meet with local business owners about sustainable business practices for all New Yorkers.  The SBA, merchant associations, local BIDs, and individual business owners – not just corporate giants like Amazon – need a seat at the table when discussing our city’s future.
You have the opportunity to make New York City a uniquely progressive city for workers – but without a plan for the sustainability of businesses, especially local businesses, workers can’t benefit either.  Especially in light of the city’s preferential treatment of Amazon, pushing through this proposal without also studying and addressing the issues for local businesses will not paint the Council in a good light.  Please consider carefully how the city can support all of its citizens, for the benefit of us all.
Rebecca Fitting
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo
Co-Owners, Greenlight Bookstore LLC / dba Yours Truly, Brooklyn
686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
632 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
680 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Mayor Bill de Blasio [via web form]
SBS commissioner Gregg Bishop
Phillip Kellogg, Fulton Area BID
Dale Charles, Parkside Empire / Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association
Dave Grogan, American Booksellers Association
Eileen Dengler, New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association