OP-ED: Unfunded Paid Vacation Time Hurts Small Businesses In Brooklyn

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Eladia’s Kids daycare and preschool.

By Eladia Causil-Rodriguez, owner of Eladia’s Kids daycare and preschool which currently has four locations in Brooklyn and is in process of opening two more.

The City Council’s unfunded mandate for paid vacation is a potential dream killer for small business owners like me.

Thirty-nine years ago, I started Eladia’s Kids in Brooklyn to provide quality childcare to local families.  I am passionate about providing young children with an early education that supports them throughout their lives and creating outstanding members of our society. I offer a safe, stimulating and nurturing childcare environment to the families in the communities of my adopted home of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where I found my place when I immigrated to this country from Colombia. It is where I raised my family. Brooklyn continues to be my home and beloved community today.

As with many businesses, I started small, just taking care of a few families’ kids in the neighborhood.  Wholly owned and operated by myself at first, I worked tirelessly to nurture the small business. After 20 years, I began working with my children and have now expanded to several locations, all in Brooklyn. Our borough has such incredible vibrancy, and the schools we run, along with the small businesses and mom-and-pop shops that dot the main streets of our local neighborhoods, reflect the cultures and traditions of our diverse neighbors in the borough. I love this about Brooklyn. Small businesses here provide employment and personalized services to New Yorkers and anchor our communities.

I took personal and financial risks to open and expand our business. My children are now taking on the same- working nights, holidays and weekends to ensure its continued success. My children are very involved in the day-to-day operation of our locations, but all our staff are part of our family as well, and we care that they are happy coming to work every day and have time for meaningful personal lives.

I cannot remember the number of times that I have helped my staff as a mother would. Offering full scholarships to the children of staff members who have been loyal and steadfast, writing recommendation letters for housing, even holding a pre-marital conference to make sure that one of my long-term staff’s fiancé was clear about the agreements of marriage to such a wonderful woman. I am a very generous employer and want the best for my staff.

Our employees work hard every day and deserve time off. Requiring 10 days of paid vacation time without government assistance puts significant pressures on my business. This is the latest in a long line of unfunded mandates and expenses that are making it hard for me to continue to provide good paying jobs to my teachers and grow job opportunities in my community.

Recent increases to the minimum wage and paid sick leave are well-intentioned policies to improve the lives of working New Yorkers, but they don’t consider how narrow margins are for small business owners like me, how much this increases my costs, or how hard it is for me to find good teachers to substitute when someone is out. Not to mention that it creates a real wage disparity for employees who have been with me many years who have excellent qualifications and those with very few qualifications that are just starting.

Our wages across the board have increased by over 20% in just 2 years. This latest mandate will only harm my business further. Without assistance from the City to make this program a reality, my business simply cannot afford it.

Bklyner welcomes opinion pieces from all, on any subject as long as it is timely and relevant to Brooklyn residents to consider for publication. Opinions are those of the writer. Please email submissions to editor@bklyner.com for consideration.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I feel for this woman but you simply do not have a valid business model if you cannot afford to provide your employees with paid time off. Being a small business owner doesn’t make your priorities more important than your employees, and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t need to provide employees with bare-bones things like sick leave.

  2. Dear Cate,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. As a point of clarity, Eladia’s Kids’ employees already receive paid sick leave and time off in compliance with current NY law. In addition, previous to the passage of “NYS Paid Family Leave” Eladia’s Kids offered 3-mos. maternity leave which is not compulsory but since it’s my business I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope that makes a difference.

    All the best,
    Eladia Causil-Rodriguez, Founder & CEO, Eladia’s Kids

  3. You may be a kind, supportive boss, but one of the roles of government is to set minimum standards for employment – salary, benefits, etc. I imagine most of your clients get paid vacation through their work – why shouldn’t those taking care of their children? It is crazy that we don’t have universal health care provided by our government. That shouldn’t be the responsibility of small businesses. But the rest – good salary, time off, etc – part of the cost of doing business

  4. Dear Cate, perhaps you are right but from Eladia’s perspective her user base cannot afford the business model you envision. She should comply with the mandate but then must pass on the cost to her customers and see who will remain as customers. If it’s not sufficient to remain in business, she closes. She has only made her informed decision.

  5. Perhaps if members of the city council came with small business experience in their kitbags before they were allowed to run for office they would not be churning out harmful mandates that will deprive citizen-voters of the small businesses the council wants to control and direct.
    So after Cate, and all the other “Cates” are gone, the only ones left will be those civil servants and corporate types, artists and free loaders, who can pontificate about “business models”.
    The rest of us will move out.
    Rob Petty

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