New York union leaders praise legislation to make joining public worker unions easier

By Press Associates and Western New York Labor Today

ALBANY, N.Y. —New York state union leaders are praising new legislation, introduced on May Day by the state senate’s Labor Committee chair, to make it easier for public workers to join unions.

And the bill, by State Sen. Marisol Alcantara, D-Manhattan, has a good chance of passage in the evenly split senate. That’s because the eight-senator Independent Democratic Caucus, including her, holds the balance of power between regular Democrats and the GOP there. And, for once, the regulars joined the IDC at the introductory press conference.

The legislation would set time limits for the delay between when a new public employee elects to join a union and when dues are deducted, and takes other actions to streamline the process of joining unions, like notifying labor groups when new employees are hired, the New York State AFL-CIO said.

“Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, a mainstream Democrat or an IDC member, for us the fact of the matter is, if you have an agenda that enhances the lives of working men and women, we will work with anyone across the board,” said fed President Mario Cilento.

Alcantara explained her bill will counter a right-wing tide of anti-worker bills, particularly so-called “right to work” laws, sweeping GOP-run states elsewhere in the U.S. Just since the start of 2017, Kentucky and Missouri passed RTW laws, but Missouri unions are circulating signatures for a referendum to stop it. RTW failed in New Mexico and New Hampshire.

The “right to work” laws let any worker covered by the union contract refuse to pay dues, or even “agency fees” – dues minus any spending that isn’t for bargaining and enforcement – to cover the union’s costs. The practical impact is to rob unions of money and workers of their rights on the job. That’s why RTW is a favorite right wing cause.

“We cannot allow right-to-work to demolish the labor movement” said Alcantara. “We cherish the right to organize and this legislation ensures everyone pays their dues to receive the protections and benefits unions provide.

“Right-to-work means a right to lower wages and a lower quality of life and we will fight against that for our brothers and sisters in labor,” she added. New York is the most-unionized state in the U.S. Other union leaders and lawmakers backed Alcantara’s bill.

A sample:

  • “At a time when public sector unions are under constant attack, this legislation which streamlines and provides continuity to the process of joining a public sector union, will prove to be more important than ever,” said Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence.
  • “This important issue is vital to the core ability of unions to function. Without changes that safeguard these rights, working men and women of New York would be the ones that suffer,” said AFSCME District Council 37, Local 983 President Joseph Puleo.
  • “Standing up for men and women who provide vital services to make our communities run is a big priority for the remainder of the session. As they are out doing difficult jobs they must know they have the protections and support that union resources provide their members. This is a matter of health and safety for thousands of people in New York,” added State Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland County.

The measure now goes to Alcantara’s committee, which is planning hearings on another pro-worker bill she just introduced: Barring firms convicted of wage theft from getting state contracts.

Source: PAI