By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday signed landmark legislation to strengthen the rights of working men and women in New York state.
This new law increases access to and protects union membership in New York’s public-sector workplaces in anticipation of an adverse ruling in the pending Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.
Additionally, the law provides safeguards against the deliberate actions taken by the federal government that continue to undermine the efforts of organized labor across this country.
Cuomo described the new law as a response to a long-term campaign by the extreme right to destroy unions.
“Too often, and at the hands of this federal administration, we are seeing the labor movement going backwards. In New York it is a different story, and our efforts to protect working men and women are moving labor forward, making the workplace fairer and more just than ever before,” Cuomo said.
“This action sends a clear message to the rest of the nation: we will not let this federal administration silence New York’s working class, we will support every voice in every community and in every industry, and we will do everything in our power to protect the right to achieve the American Dream.”
AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido and UFT President Michael Mulgrew were among the labor leaders who attended the signing at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers.
“The extreme right wing behind the Janus case has put a bulls-eye on public employee unions,” Cilento said. But he said private-sector unions would inevitably be affected by a ruling in favor the plaintiff, Mark Janus, a 65-year-old child support specialist from Illinois.
Cilento said the right wants to drive down the wages of middle-class unionized workers, who on average are paid $11,000 than their counterparts without union representation.
“We see a federal government that continues to attack working men and women,” Garrido said. But, he noted, there is a growing resistance to President Donald Trump’s anti-labor administration. The teacher uprising across the country is a sign that workers are starting to stand up to the right-wing campaign against workers.
A ruling against labor in Janus v AFSCME would essentially impose “right-to-work” laws on public sector workers throughout the entire country.
The NYS legislation strengthens unions by requiring public employers to:
- Notify the relevant union within 30 days of a new employee being hired, rehired or promoted into a bargaining unit represented by that union;
- Provide the new employee’s name, address, work location to the union; and
- Permit union representatives to meet with new employees within 30 days, for a reasonable amount of time, and without charge to leave credits.
The law also:
- Ensures union membership is maintained so workers’ benefits are protected if they take leave;
- Enables unions to send dues deductions to employers electronically, which makes it easier and faster for unions to receive dues; and
- Requires dues to be reinstated automatically if a union member employee leaves service, but is reinstated to a position with the same employer and covered by the same bargaining unit within one year.