Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Martin Golden
Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Martin Golden
City & State: What was the biggest or most important labor-related bill that was passed last session?
Martin Golden: From my committee, which is Civil Service and Pensions, there are two bills. First, S4559, which I sponsored, fixes the current inequities that exist when a law enforcement agency is faced with a reduction in its workforce. Currently, when a law enforcement agency must reduce its workforce, employees are demoted based upon their total number of years in the classified service, not their total number of years in their current title.
This inequity could lead to the demotion of a person who served as a sergeant for eight years before a person who served as a sergeant for one year because the person with the eight years as a sergeant was promoted after three years of classified service, while it took the other person 15 years to be promoted. Second, S4628, which was introduced by Sen. Andrew Lanza, removes a significant obstacle for those public employees whose supervisor is engaged in improper practices and want to comply with the whistleblower law. Currently, these employees are required to report the improper practice to their supervisor. When the bad actor is the employee’s supervisor, employees are less likely to comply with the law because they fear retribution from their supervisor. By removing the employee’s supervisor from the reporting requirement, many more employees may feel comfortable becoming whistleblowers and exposing those whose improper acts are harming this state.
C&S: Was there any labor-related legislation that didn’t get done that you wish had?
MG: For my Committee, the three-quarters accidental disability benefits for police officers and firefighters.
C&S: What is your top priority for the 2016 session for labor?
MG: Three-quarters accidental disability benefits for police officers and firefighters. We need to make sure that the people who put their lives on the line to protect us are not impoverished if they are injured on the job and can no longer work.
We also need to make sure that the vital 421-a program continues. Right now, its continuation hinges on the unions and employers reaching an agreement regarding wages by Jan. 15.
C&S: What is your reaction to the proposed $15 minimum wage for fast food workers? Some, including the governor, say it should be expanded to all state workers. Do you agree?
MG: As a supporter of the current minimum wage increase law, I recognize the need for increased wages. However, I do feel that the Legislature must be an equal participant in the decision-making process on proposals affecting workers, employers and consumers and taxpayers alike. The threat of litigation over recent actions by an executive panel raises concerns over the process that circumvented the Legislature.
We need to look at the impact of an increased minimum wage on the fast food sector before making any decisions. If that sector does not fare well, then we need to re-evaluate minimum wage plans.
C&S: Should minimum wages vary between upstate and downstate? Why or why not?
MG: We need to look at the cost of living in various parts of the state to determine the appropriate wage rate and the impact of increased wage rates on the economy. We do not want to force businesses to have to close because they cannot afford to pay their employees a higher wage rate.
C&S: Both PEF and CSEA are about to enter into contract negotiations with the Cuomo administration. After the three-year wage freeze agreed to in 2011, should the state unions receive a pay raise?
MG: The three-year wage freeze ended on March 26, 2014, for CSEA and PEF. Beginning March 27, 2014, employees represented by CSEA or PEF received a 2 percent wage increase. Because CSEA’s contract does not expire until 2016, CSEA-represented employees received a 2 percent wage increase in 2015. Unions have been asked to share the pain in economically stressful times. When it is economically feasible, they should be able to negotiate raises during the collective bargaining process.