Biz Leaders: Proposed City Regulatory Laws Cripple Businesses

Fast food restaurant with employees of kitchen cashiers waitresses and visitors interior elements isometric vector illustration

Business advocates from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx yesterday, Dec. 15, ripped into the de Blasio Administration and City Councilmember and Comptroller candidate Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) for attempting to push through legislation that would allow local government to intervene on how businesses fire employees.

Proposed legislation  1415 deals with “just cause” or reasonable firing of fast food employees, and Bill 1396 requires that employers fire employees based on seniority. 

The City Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee held a hearing on the two restaurant industry bills yesterday with heavy opposition from small business associations throughout the boroughs. The full city council vote is on Thursday, December 17.

City Councilmember Eric Ulrich

The Save NYC Business Coalition, with Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) chiming in his support, held an emergency press conference yesterday before the hearing to discuss the bill’s negative impact on fast-food restaurants and small businesses. 

Ulrich said that he was really disappointed at the way the city council, Mayor, and Governor “sold out” businesses during the pandemic, and he also feels the proposed legislation is unconstitutional. 

“There are a lot of people on the council who are sympathetic to the business community, they do support small businesses, but as you know, we live in a political world and they’re afraid of the special interest groups. They might be afraid of the unions since some of them are running for reelection or higher office,” said Ulrich, who mentioned that he is term-limited.

The coalition insinuated that these bills are known in the council as the “32BJ bills” because they were crafted by the union as a way to legislate collective bargaining practices. Multiple people in the coalition also said that the bills will not only affect chain stores that are independently run and operated, but eventually small mom and pop stores too. 

The coalition insists that these bills are being pushed with no consultation from small business owners on all fronts, and will “destroy” an already drowning restaurant industry while forcing more vulnerable populations, like Black and Brown communities, immigrants, working parents and students, into unemployment.

Queens Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Grech said they are unanimously and unambiguously opposed to the legislation as well as the “bad decisions and ill-informed reasoning” to shut down indoor dining and delay federal aid from the long-promised RESTAURANTS Act of 2020.

“Queens County has been the epicenter of the epicenter. I could throw a stone from my office and hit Elmhurst Hospital where the body bags in the trailers are still reminiscent of darker days,” said Grech. 

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers said that the city council is effectively “suckerpunching” the business community by pushing this legislation through with little to no input from the business community. “Why is this being fast-tracked? To me it is wrong, and an aged piece of legislation that under the cloak of darkness emerges,” said Peers.

“The Mayor and the Council are supposed to serve the people, not the hierarchy of special interest and mass voting. The Council does nothing if it does not plan for the good of all the people. Destroying businesses destroys jobs, and destroying jobs destroys NYC,” said Lisa Sorin, President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

Sorin said like other boroughs the Bronx has been hit especially hard. She said changes and regulations that are bombarding businesses are already forcing them to close down.

However, the legislation has gained plenty of support from De Blasio and Lander, a primary sponsor on one of the bills.

City Council Member Brad Lander
Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Fast food workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, serving their neighbors, working in tight quarters, taking on new responsibilities for sanitizing, and yet unable to speak up about health and safety issues for fear of losing their jobs. We’re finally on the cusp of giving these essential but long-disrespected workers a modicum of job stability by passing ‘just cause’ legislation,” said Lander.

“It’s no surprise that industry lobbyists are insisting that corporations should be able to fire people at any time, without any reason,” he added.

De Blasio spokesperson Laura Feyer said that fast-food workers deserve protections and fair compensation, which is why the mayor was proud to fight for a $15 minimum wage and work with the City Council to pass Fair Workweek back in 2017. 

“The Mayor is very supportive of these additional protections and looks forward to them becoming law,“ said Feyer.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) also expressed support for the measure, saying fast-food workers are routinely fired from their jobs without a cause related to their work performance. 

“This practice prevents them from speaking out about harassment and poor work conditions. It must stop. They deserve a just cause for termination and the freedom to speak out without fear of being fired. Workers continue to face dangerous conditions on the job due to COVID and we must ensure our essential workers are protected from unjust termination,” said Johnson.

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