Employee Free Choice Act Vote Next Wednesday
(This is a really important vote. - promoted by lipris)
The Employee Free Choice Act is headed toward a Senate vote next week on Wednesday. The bill has already passed overwhelmingly in the House. Almost all of the New York House delegation voted for it - Tom Reynolds (R-NY 26) and John Kuhl (R-NY 29) were the only New York Reps in opposition - and New York's Senators support the bill. But whether the bill will pass the Senate is in doubt. Find out more about the opposition.
Why is this bill so important? Workers routinely face intimidation from employers when they try to form a union. In 25 percent of organizing campaigns, private-sector employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union. Passing this law will restore American workers' freedom to join unions. And that will help workers improve their lives.
Don't think that's an issue? Listen to Greg Mendez's story.
Greg Mendez is an office systems coordinator at New York's Pace University. In 2004, Mendez and his co-workers sought to form a union with the New York State United Teachers/AFT. They wanted a transparent salary structure and grievance procedure in place of the university's arbitrary system of pay raises and promotions. In response, the university hired anti-worker consultants to run meetings several times a day. Union supporters who tried to speak up at these meetings were publicly attacked. "People got nervous, really nervous," says Mendez. "You would have thought we were trying to overthrow the government." Three years later, Pace University workers still are fighting the administration's campaign of intimidation.
And there are plenty more workers with stories just like Greg's.
In the end, it's all about workers making better lives for themselves and their families. Tell your U.S. Senator to pass the Employee Free Choice Act - and then, even more importanly, tell your friends in other states to take action.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Friday, June 8, 2007
Not That Anyone Needed Reminding
Everyone has a favorite example of how the Legislature's dysfunction leads to inaction, with little ability on the part of New Yorkers to hold their individual legislators accountable. From the Working Families Blog, which has been particularly focused on paid family leave this week:
There's no better example of Albany dysfunction than a Republican State Senate that says they support giving paid time off to parents of newborns (or newly adopted children) and adults who need time to care for ailing relatives, but then not actually passing the bill.
More to the point: there's no better example of Albany dysfunction than a majority of members of a chamber saying they support a bill, but never actually voting on it.
Albany Common Council Votes To Support Paid Family Leave
(Excellent. Have YOU signed the petition yet? - promoted by lipris)
With Republicans in the State Senate delaying passage of a paid family leave bill, the Albany Common Council has weighed in and passed a resolution in support of the Working Families Time to Care Act. The resolution urges the local legislative delegation to do all they can to make sure this bill becomes law.
Ward 3 Councilmember Corey Ellis explains her support:"Time off to care for a newborn shouldn't be a luxury that only some families can afford - it should be a basic cornerstone of our society."
Ward 4 Councilmember Barbara Smith added:"[The Working Families Time To Care Act would] bring a little bit of much-needed peace of mind to working people across the state."
Sounds right to me. If you agree, sign on in support of paid family leave!
Working Families Time to Care Act on the Anvil
It's about time! The New York State legislature is considering a piece of legislation, the Working Families Time to Care Act, that would allow workers as much as 12 weeks paid leave to care for family members in need (like newborns, the sick or elderly, children and grandchildren, among others). Only two other states have similar laws, making New York the third state to consider such a plan. And Governor Eliot Spitzer, who fully supports the Act, is working to garner the necessary support for its passage.
As the Working Families Party suggests, even under the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers are forced to "choose between their families and their jobs," as they cannot always afford to take time off to care for family members. The Working Families Time to Care Act would alleviate this problem.
What's most appealing about the Act, though, is its availability to all workers; under the Act, women and men can take time off to care for a newborn child, allowing dads to play a larger role in caring for their children.
Here's what the New York Times had to say about the Act last week.
Or check out the Working Families Party website for further information about the Act.
Yes to Family Leave!
As the legislative session ends in Albany, the most significant piece of social legislation being debated is paid family leave.
The "Working Families Time to Care Act" would give 12 weeks of paid time off to parents of newborns (or newly adopted children) and adults who need time to care for ailing relatives. This bill is high on both Governor Spitzer's and Speaker Silver's agenda. Senator Morahan (R-Rockland) is sponsoring a near-to-identical bill in the State Senate. As expected, Senator Bruno is the sticking point, with conflicting signals on what he plans to do.
C'mon Senator Bruno! Support Family Leave!
The issue has recently been covered by the Empire Zone: "they appeared to be close to an agreement that would offer workers up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for newborns or seriously ill family members." The Working Families Party was created to fight for commonsense reforms that will make a positive difference in the lives of working New Yorkers. This is the kind of policy reform that really is good for all of us, especially newborn babies. The bonds that get made in the first weeks of life are enormously important later on, and this policy will make such bonding more likely and stronger. If you have questions, please feel free to check the Working Families Time to Care Act FAQ: You can read continuing coverage of the issue on the Working Families Blog. http://wfpjournal.blogspot.com http://www.newyorkisourhome.com/ http://www.workingfamiliesparty.org/
Thursday, June 7, 2007
TAKE ACTION: Help the Working Families Party Pass Paid Family Leave Legislation
Last year, I wrote a San Francisco Chronicle column about the Working Families Party, and how fusion voting in general has led to a real populist powerhouse in New York State. Now, as the Albany Project reports, the party is on the verge of passing paid family leave legislation through the New York legislature. If you live in New York, use this form to get in touch with your state lawmakers today to tell them to support this bill. This is what family values REALLY looks like.
State Senate Stalling Paid Family Leave?
(Surely Uncle Joe would never do such a thing... - promoted by lipris)
Paid family leave was the first topic on the agenda of yesterday's 6-way Leadership Meeting between the Governor, Lt Governor, and majority and minority leaders of the Assembly and Senate. This is the first time the Working Families Time to Care Act has been on the agenda at a public leadership meeting. Today's elevation of the issue came hot on the heels of a less-than-optimistic report that the Republican State Senate wouldn't pass paid family leave.
So how did we do at the leadership meeting?
Initial reports are promising. The talk was overwhelmingly positive. From the Empire Zone:"they appeared to be close to an agreement that would offer workers up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for newborns or seriously ill family members."
But we're not there yet. Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno warned everyone not to jump to any conclusions about whether the bill would pass, and admitted that some Republican Senators were, in his words, preening for the cameras. The Daily Politics described it this way:"Everyone made nice noises about family leave"
There's no better example of Albany dysfunction than a Republican State Senate that says they support giving paid time off to parents of newborns (or newly adopted children) and adults who need time to care for ailing relatives, but then not actually passing the bill. Everyone says they support it. Let's get it done.
As a bonus, here's an editorial in favor of paid family leave by Karen Schimke, President and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, and Carol Saginaw, Executive Director of the NYS Child Care Coordinating Council, in the Albany Times-Union.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
A Shortage of Time, but Not of Ideas
Elana from DMI has a great post over at The Albany Project, pointing out that while New York's legislators are debating ticket scalping and whether sweet corn should be the official state vegetable, quite a few more weighty concerns -- from welfare policy to predatory lending to to family leave (see also Steve WFP's excellent report from the Family Leave Roundtable in Schenectady) -- are waiting to be addressed. She also puts in a plug for DMI's new report:Some of the issues New York is struggling to handle -- subsidy reform, what to do with criminals when they are released from prison, providing universal access to preschool and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs -- are real challenges but they aren't insurmountable. In fact four localities around the country did tackle these battles with great success. Want to know more?
Our new report "Lessons from the Marketplace: Four Proven Progressive Policies from DMI’s Marketplace of Ideas
(And how New York can do them even better)" reveals how it all was achieved.
This should be a fruitful time for New York's progressives, with the political wind at our backs. But that means we have more responsibility than ever to stay informed about innovative new policy ideas and opportunities to address longstanding problems. If you haven't already, you should also read the Fiscal Policy Institute's "One New York: An Agenda for Shared Prosperity," which offers a comprehensive analysis of how to make New York's economy fairer and more productive.
We're already late in the 2007 session and there will be a lot of bills competing for attention as the window closes. All the more reason to get our priorities in order -- and also to come back with a clear wish list in the next session.
corn & ticket scalpers vs. policies you care about
As the New York State legislature wraps-up their 2007 session some interesting bills have come to light, like the bill to make sweet corn the official state vegetable and a bill that will help ticket scalpers. Clearly this is the kind of legislation that keeps New York State residents up at night asking existential questions like "what role does sweet corn play in my life?" or "how far from a stadium can I buy re-sold Yankees tickets?". Well I guess if you are involved in the racing industry that scalpers' bill is a big deal but what about the rest of us? What's in the state's legislative hopper?
Last week DMI Fellow Maureen Lane wrote about a sensible welfare policy bill that has the potential to help move people out of poverty. So far it hasn't been introduced by the State Senate. DMI Fellow Mark Winston Griffith blogged about model anti-predatory lending legislation that New Yorkers for Responsible Lending is working to call attention to. The city is now waiting to see if the legislature will approve Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 including its congestion pricing proposals. The Working Families Party has been doing amazing work around the Working Families Time to Care Act which is their legislative priority this year. And as always, The Albany Project has been doing an incredible job keeping track of the legislative goings-ons.
Yet at the end of the day while the legislature is wrestling with the question of who gets to make a whole bunch of money selling tickets there really are serious problems that need to be addressed by the state government. Some of the issues New York is struggling to handle -- subsidy reform, what to do with criminals when they are released from prison, providing universal access to preschool and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs -- are real challenges but they aren't insurmountable. In fact four localities around the country did tackle these battles with great success. Want to know more?
Our new report "Lessons from the Marketplace: Four Proven Progressive Policies from DMI's Marketplace of Ideas (And how New York can do them even better)" reveals how it all was achieved.
Now I know it's a cliche that the state legislature "doesn't do anything" and that's not even my point here. Simply that as they go about the business of the state not all issues are equally urgent and a lot of other parts in the country have implemented policies that New York can learn a lot from. Is that too much to ask? But in the meantime, "Gentlemen, behold! Corn!"
Monday, June 4, 2007
Family Leave Roundtable in Schenectady
(Great report from this event. - promoted by lipris)
Last Thursday, Legislator Gary Hughes; Legislator Ed Kosiur, Vice Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature; Schenectady County Legislator Vince DiCerbo and Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton listened to Mia Puertas, working mother to Jada Puertas, and Doug Williams, working father to Maya and husband to Marie, talk about why they support the Working Families Time to Care Act.
When Mia was pregnant with Jada, her employer didn't offer any form of family leave. Mia had to choose between taking time off to care for Jada or going back to work right away. Mia took unpaid leave, and ended up leaving her job because of the inadequate benefits. Here's why Mia Puertas supports the Working Families Time to Care Act:"This is crucial bonding time for the parent to have with the child, which no mother should be denied. . . However, my job did not provide me with any paid leave, and I had to take unpaid leave. . . I am willing to take a stand for the mothers that are facing this obstacle, so they don't have to go through the struggle that I was faced with at the time. . . After Jada's birth, I was feeling the same emotions that every new mother feels: exhaustion, overwhelmed, stressed. Adding financial worry was the last thing I needed at the time.
I have first hand experience in needing this benefit, and, when it was not available, I had to make choices that new mothers should not have to make in an already stressful time. This legislation should be passed because it will help working families, like mine, take care of each other in the times they need it most."
When Doug's daughter Maya was born, he was offered 4 weeks of paid leave. Doug used that time to bond with his wife and new daughter. Here's how Doug describes his experience:"I was grateful to be able to spend four weeks of paid time with my wife and new daughter. I didn't get a vacation that year, but it was worth it to be able to spend time with them. But, somehow, four weeks just doesn't seem like enough time. With the Working Families Time to Care Act, I would have been able to spend up to 12 weeks with her!"
Then, Doug's wife, Marie, suffered a heart attack last year. Doug once again struggled to balance family and work:"I was able to take the time off, but it meant exhausting all my vacation time and sick leave. Because this didn't add up to enough time, I did have to take a few unpaid days off. I needed to take care of my wife, even if it meant giving up my vacation time that year."
You couldn't help but be moved listening to Mia and Doug, and Legislator Gary Hughes gave us the good news that:"The Schenectady County Legislature supports the Working Families Time to Care Act and we will be introducing a resolution in support of the bill at our next meeting [on June 12th]. It is time for us to make it easier for working families to take care of each other"
But we still need action in Albany. That's where you can make a difference.
The world's most important job should be a paid position (at least for a few weeks)
I'm a stay-at-home-dad. I love it. I don't think that there is a more rewarding job anywhere on the planet as taking care of your wee one. Go ahead and judge me if you want. I'm a bit too progressive to care. Raising our daughter is something that I want to do, and I take great pride in her perpetual happiness. And because my wife is a veterinarian, we are afforded the ability to have a stay-at-home-parent, though just barely. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most families. Here are some rather embarrassingly regressive statistics.
- Less than ten percent of American workers get paid time off to take care of family members at times of extreme need.
- Seventy-eight percent of people who need family leave can’t afford to take it.
- Roughly half of all personal bankruptcies result from health care-related crises.
In my home state of New York, we have a political party called the Working Families Party, whose main goals are to promote better and more affordable health care, higher wages for the lower and middle classes, and better education for our young ones. They usually endorse the most progressive major candidate. Through the use of open-balloting, you can choose to vote for the candidate that the party endorses to show how important these issues are to you without wasting your vote.
The Working Families Party is sponsoring legislation called the Working Families Time to Care Act. Here's what it does in the proverbial nutshell:
- The Working Families Time to Care Act would expand New York's existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program to also cover family needs (e.g., leave for either parent to care for newborns or newly adopted children or for seriously ill family members).
- Workers would receive up to 12 weeks of benefits with a maximum of $17o a week, funded through a modest (43 cents a week) increase in premiums paid within the existing TDI program.
The bill would make New York State the most progressive in the country in terms of medical and maternity leave. According to the New York Times:
Mr. Spitzer's plan would be more expansive than the paid leave in Washington State, which is limited to caring for newborns and newly adopted children, and in California, which covers workers caring for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse or domestic partner. Mr. Spitzer's plan would also cover workers who take off to care for grandchildren, foster parents and parents-in-law.
Critics say the benefits are far too low. While I agree with that, this is an important first step in getting family leave to where it should be. It has passed through the State Assembly but has temporarily stalled in the State Senate. But with a little help from us, they'll come around. Governor Spitzer has already dipped his pen and is ready to sign. So hop on over to the Working Families website to sign their letter to New York State legislators so that others can afford to raise their newborns and help sick family members. And maybe they can even avoid having to file for bankruptcy protection.