Organized Labor Scorecard

Organized Labor Scorecard

Organized Labor Scorecard
August 28, 2014

The Players

The State
Sen. Diane Savino, who chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Labor, has sponsored a bill that would give farmworkers a day off and require overtime pay for work weeks exceeding 60 hours. Her fellow senator Adriano Espaillat has introduced more comprehensive legislation that would also grant collective bargaining rights to agricultural labors, among other benefits. In the Assembly Carl Heastie is chair of the Labor Committee and Peter Abbate is chair of the Government Employees Committee. Peter Rivera is commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, and Dan Cantor is head of the laborbacked Working Families Party.

The City
Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected with crucial help from organized labor, with which he has long been allied. The mayor appointed Bob Linn as commissioner of the city’s Office of Labor Relations, and Linn is the city’s lead negotiator in its current efforts to reach contract agreements with all of the city’s labor unions. Daneek Miller is chair of the City Council Labor Committee.

The Advocates
Mario Cilento is president of the New York AFL-CIO, the powerful umbrella labor organization for the state. Vincent Alvarez heads the AFL-CIO’s New York City Central Labor Council. The president of the sanitation workers union, Harry Nespoli, also chairs the Municipal Labor Committee, which is the umbrella organization for labor unions in New York City. George Gresham leads New York’s largest union, 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East. Hector Figureoa leads SEIU 32BJ, representing a vast array of property services workers. Michael Mulgrew leads the United Federation of Teachers, New York City’s public schoolteachers’ union, and Karen Magee was recently elected president of the statewide teachers’ union— NYSUT. Among the biggest advocates in Albany are Danny Donohue at CSEA Local 1000, and Susan Kent, who is the president of the Public Employees Federation.

Pension Funds

New York State
Between fiscal years 2004 and 2014, the state’s annual contributions to its two major pension systems—the New York State Employees’ Retirement System (NYSERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS)—grew from $455 million to $2.08 billion.

New York City
The rise of New York City’s pension payments during the same period has been even more dramatic, going from $2.4 billion in fiscal year 2004 to $8.18 billion in 2014. That cost is projected to grow to $8.47 billion in fiscal year 2015. (SOURCES: CITIZENS BUDGET COMMISSION; NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE)

Top Five New York City Agencies by Payroll

  1. With 135,756 employees, the Department of Education has the most municipal workers in the city, and as such, it costs the most in terms of gross pay: $9.4 billion in fiscal year 2014.
  2. The Police Department has 53,033 workers with a payroll of $4.42 billion.
  3. The Fire Department has 16,145 workers with a payroll of $1.65 billion.
  4. The Department of Correction has 10,701 workers with a payroll of $953 million.
  5. The Department of Sanitation has 9,006 workers with a payroll of $838 million.


The Issues

Minimum Wage
Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed his tune on the issue this spring, pivoting from the position that allowing local governments to set their own minimum wage would make for chaotic economic conditions to the view that such a move is only fair in light of the different costs of living in different parts of the state. It was partly in exchange for this fresh outlook that Cuomo received the support of the labor-backed Working Families Party in his re-election bid, and the governor has pledged to seek approval for an initiative next year that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10, with minimums set up to 30 percent higher in some places. This could mean a $13.13 minimum wage in New York City, a figure Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would push for. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito has raised the possibility of raising it to as high as $15 an hour, but it is unclear how or when that would happen.

Farmworkers Bill of Rights
It might come as a surprise to some that working 14-hour days, six days a week for $8 dollars an hour with no overtime pay is completely legal in New York State—provided you’re a farmworker. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which gives private sector employees the right to organize into trade unions, collectively bargain for better work conditions and strike if those conditions are not forthcoming, does not apply to agricultural workers. Only seven states require time-and-a-half pay for overtime in this sector—in some cases overtime only comes after 60 hours of work—and New York is not one of them. The Assembly has long tried to pass laws intended to protect the state’s 60,000 to 100,000 farmworkers, most of whom are Latino migrants, but the New York Farm Bureau, a lobbying group for agribusiness, has been successful in convincing the state Senate to block these initiatives so far.

Industrial Development Agency Reform
The latest annual audit report from the state comptroller’s office found that many of New York’s 112 active Industrial Development Agencies were underperforming and poor at reporting on their performance as required under state law. Each IDA is an individual public benefit corporation created by the state Legislature to further economic activity and job growth in its designated county or municipality. Specifically, IDAs give assistance, often in the form of tax breaks, to businesses looking to expand and develop new projects. In recent years, however, IDAs have come under criticism for handing out these tax breaks too readily because they survive on the fees they gather from the businesses in return. “Far too often IDA-sponsored projects are not producing expected benefits,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli wrote in a March press release, “and taxpayers are not getting what they were promised.”

By the Numbers: Unemployment

New York State’s unemployment rate hit a low of 4.3 percent in late 2006 and early 2007, before rocketing to a high of 8.9 percent in late 2009 and early 2010. Since July 2012, unemployment has for the most part steadily decreased—with a few hiccups—from a high of 8.7 percent to 6.7 in April 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Higher unemployment persists in some parts of the state, however: The seasonally adjusted rate for New York City was 7.8 percent in July of 2014, according to the State Department of Labor. In the Bronx, the rate has remained stubbornly above 10 percent since 2009. The Southern Tier County of Steuben, along with a host of North Country counties and Fulton County in the Capital Region, all have unemployment rates hovering around or above 7 percent. Meanwhile, other counties upstate and on Long Island are seeing rates drop to between 5 and 6 percent, and in some places even below 5 percent.

City & State