New York Legislative Victories for Workers in 2019

In 2018, CWA helped elect a pro-worker NYS Senate.

In 2019, the NYS Legislature passed 30 pro-worker bills.

After 30 years of Albany gridlock on workers’ top issues, we helped elect a pro-worker State Senate in 2018. What a difference it made! More than 30 pro-worker bills passed this year, the most anyone can remember. Here’s a few of the highlights, including CWA’s bill to keep call center jobs in New York State (a flyer with this info is available for download here):

  • NY CALL CENTER JOBS: Protects call center workers by penalizing companies that ship 30% or more of their call volume out of New York State. The bill also requires State call center business to be done by workers in New York State.
  • SALARY HISTORY BAN: Prevents employers from asking about applicants’ salary histories, which will help stop wage discrimination by separating a future employers’ pay decisions from previous employers’ bias.
  • REDUCE STRIKER WAITING TIME FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE TO ONE WEEK: Reduces the 7-week unemployment insurance waiting period for strikers to one week, the same waiting period as all other unemployed workers.
  • ORGANIZING RIGHTS FOR FARMWORKERS: Provides farmworkers with the right to form a union, a day of rest, and overtime pay.
  • MINIMUM WAGE FOR CARWASH WORKERS: Eliminates the tipped minimum wage for carwash workers in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, entitling these workers to the full minimum wage.
  • WAGE DIFFERENTIAL PROHIBITION: Expands protection against workplace discrimincation on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, and other protected class statuses.

Full list of pro-worker bills passed this year, from the NYS AFL-CIO

Farmworkers (A8419 Nolan/S6578 Ramos)
The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act provides farmworkers with the right to form a union, a day of rest and overtime pay. In order to address the concerns of farmers, protect the food supply and address other factors unique to farming, the Senate pushed for a strike prohibition and a 60-hour per week overtime threshold. As a result of these additions, the New York State AFL-CIO fought for, and won, neutrality, card-check, binding interest arbitration, continuity of expired contracts and a pathway to a 40-hour work week via a wage board. The three-member wage board, comprised of DOL, State Fed and Farm Bureau representatives is tasked with investigating the impacts of lowering the 60-hour threshold and empowered to lower it by majority vote.

Unemployment Improvement for Workers on Strike (A6592 Ryan/S4573 Kennedy)
This bill reduces the 7-week unemployment insurance waiting period for strikers to one week, the same waiting period as all other unemployed workers.

SWEAT Wage Theft Enforcement (A486-B Rosenthal, L/S2844-B Ramos)
In order to prevent wage theft and to enhance enforcement, this bill creates a new type of lien to secure payment of wages from employers that have violated wage theft laws. It also streamlines the process for holding company owners personally liable for unpaid wages.

Call Center Worker Protections (A567-C Rosenthal, L/S1826-C Kennedy)
This bill amends labor law to require telecommunications companies to provide notice to the Department of Labor upon reductions in call volume at in-state call centers. It also directs the commissioner to publish the list and makes companies on the list ineligible for state-sponsored financial incentives. The claw-back provision in the bill requires employers added to the list that are already receiving state-sponsored financial incentives to return or relinquish the unamortized value of the incentive. Finally, the bill directs agency heads to patronize in-state call center and customer service vendors.

Elevator Safety (A4509-A Crespo/S4080-C Savino)
In order to ensure public safety, worker safety, quality and appropriate training, this bill requires licensing and sets standards for the construction, inspection, maintenance, and repair of elevators.

School Workplace Violence Prevention (A6157 Titus/S1720 Ramos)
This bill amends the labor law to require schools to establish workplace violence prevention plans. These plans are already required for other public employers. Plans are to be developed in consultation with workers and unions and will include corrective actions in areas of potential danger.

Car Wash Minimum Wage (A6346-C Crespo/S4030-A Ramos)
This bill eliminates the tipped minimum wage credit for carwash workers in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, entitling these workers to the full minimum wage.

Gravity Knives (A5944 Quart/S4863 Savino)-Chapter 34 of the Laws of 2019
This law removes the term “gravity knife” from various sections of the penal law which criminalized basic utility knives used by workers. It has already been signed by the Governor.

Injunctive Relief Extension – (A7502 Abbate/S5831 Gounardes)
This bill extends for two years public employees’ ability to seek injunctive relief when employers engage in improper practices.

Automatic Retirement Enrollment for Paraprofessionals in New York City – (A7874-A Abbate/S5905-A Gounardes)
This bill requires automatic retirement system enrollment, as opposed to opt-in, for New York City Department of Education paraprofessionals.

Labor and Non-Competitive Class Parity for Public Employees – (A7248 Abbate/S5291 Gounardes)
This bill extends reduction in force bump and retreat protections to all labor and non-competitive class public employees.

Writers and Directors Diversity Tax Credit – (A6683-B Crespo/S5864-A Jackson)
This bill creates a tax credit for fees and services of minority and women film and television directors and writers in New York.

Law Enforcement/Community College 211 Waiver (A7261-A Abbate/S4308-A Gounardes)
This bill grants an automatic earnings cap waiver to certain police and fire retirees if they return to service by teaching at a community college.

Employment Protection Provisions for NYC School Bus Services (A7749 O’Donnell/S6208 Jackson)
This bill would require the City of New York to include employee protection provisions in contracts for pupil transportation and permit the City to renegotiate current contracts that do not include such provisions.

Public Work Wage and Benefit Transparency (A2101-A Woerner/S5679-A Savino)
This bill requires disclosure of wage supplements (benefits) paid by contractors on public work projects. Prevailing rate requirements cover wages and benefits. This legislation will increase transparency and ensure that contractors are held responsible for providing workers with benefits to which they are entitled.

School Bus Cameras (A4950-B Magnarelli/S4524-B Kennedy)
This bill allows for cameras installed on school buses and in stationary locations to take photos and be used to issue fines for automobile owners who illegally pass school buses while pupils are embarking or disembarking.

Salary History Ban (A5308-B Crespo/S6549 Carlucci)
This bill prevents employers from inquiring about applicants’ salary histories. Preventing employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history will limit the impact of historic discriminatory pay practices by uncoupling a future employers’ pay decisions from previous employers’ bias.

Firefighter Cancer Lookback (A7716-A Reyes/S5246-A Gounardes)
This bill creates a presumption that New York City firefighters diagnosed with cancer within five years of retirement incurred it in the performance of their duties.

Independent Dispute Resolution of Emergency Medical Fees (A264-B Cahill/S3171-A Krueger)
This bill subjects hospital emergency charges to the independent dispute resolution process to protect against excessive fees.

Black Car Fund (A8129-A Rodriguez/S6239-A Savino)
Expands statutory authority of the Black Car Operators’ Injury Fund to include provision of health benefits.