State leaders act to protect workers
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature stepped up this year to help protect the voice and bargaining power of state and other public employees in New York state.
They amended state law to make it clear that members who pay union dues will receive certain benefits and services, and the unions — while they serve the interests of all workers in the bargaining units they represent — cannot be forced to provide full benefits of membership to those who do not pay for them.
In announcing that he had signed this legislation, Cuomo said, “We will do everything in our power to protect the right to achieve the American Dream.”
“We appreciate the vision and leadership our elected leaders in this state have demonstrated,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “They recognize the important role unions play in raising standards of pay, safety and fairness in the workplace. New York needs workers and working people need unions to give them the voice and collective power to keep New York strong and just.
The legislation strengthens PEF and other public-employee unions by requiring public employers including state agencies 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 legislation also supports unions by:
- Ensuring union membership is maintained so workers’ benefits are protected if they take leave;
- Enabling unions to send dues deductions to employers electronically, which makes it easier and faster for unions to receive dues; and
- Requiring 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.
The governor also acted to slam the door on the billionaires behind Janus v. AFSCME who are paying for groups to email, call and visit union members at their homes to persuade the members to abandon their union.
Citing the potential threat of harassment and intimidation from anti-union groups, Cuomo ordered state agencies to protect their employees’ addresses and other personal contact information and keep them confidential.