Titus: Restoring faith and justice by fighting for working families

Titus: Restoring faith and justice by fighting for working families

Titus: Restoring faith and justice by fighting for working families
February 12, 2016

Every year, the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc., is proud to sponsor the Legislative Conference, a weekend of events and workshops targeted to New York state’s communities of color. This year is our 45th annual conference, and our theme, “Restoring Faith & Justice: In Pursuit of Empowering our Communities,” provides a lens through which we can address an array of issues that impact our communities. From raising the minimum wage, enacting paid family leave and improving child care access to higher education and criminal justice reform, the Legislative Conference fosters an environment where people can have lively discussion, brainstorm effective strategy and network to strengthen our community.

We have a full schedule of events, many of which coincide with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus’s session goals. The Legislative Caucus promotes legislation that supports working families and fights for the benefits that labor unions and hardworking New Yorkers have rightfully earned. New Yorkers work hard in all industries, working in restaurants, painting nails and caring for our families. For too long, the minimum wage has been stagnant at an unlivable rate. A New Yorker working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks at the state minimum wage of $9 per hour will earn $18,720 before taxes, or under 130 percent of the federal poverty line. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was highest in 1969, at $11.27. It’s time we raise the wage so all workers can support their families without working themselves into an early grave.

Though the cost of living continues to rise, the quality of life for working families in New York should not suffer. The Legislative Caucus is dedicated to protecting the stability of our community and advancing the livelihood of our constituents. Paid family leave would allow hardworking individuals to take the necessary time to care for a new baby or sick family member without fearing for their job. This legislation helps New Yorkers avoid financial disaster and, in turn, bolsters family earnings and the state’s economy. Additionally, this legislation helps codify work-life balance, an issue that affects almost every worker.

Yet without affordable child care, increased wages and paid leave will not go far enough to help struggling families. That’s why we are also working to protect affordable child care and pay child care workers a good wage. The impact of this legislation is huge: not only will it bolster the economy, but it will ensure that women are able to stay in the workforce, thus closing the wage gap.

Over 45 years, the Legislative Conference has also funded hundreds of student scholarships. We are committed to ensuring that working families can continue to make it in New York, and higher education is one pathway to the middle class and financial stability.

Clearly we have big goals. The workshops are chock-full of brilliant thinkers and strategists from all over the state who will help us lay the foundation from which we can build our 2016 legislative goals. The hot-button topics that engage us are front and center at the conference – and these topics come from our members and constituents. The association’s staff works hard to curate a workshop schedule that reflects the breadth of our community’s interests and concerns. Our communities are entitled to all the resources required to seize all available opportunities.

We could not create such an invigorating weekend of events and panels without the cooperation of unions, elected and appointed officials, and community leaders – and of course, the conference attendees. Thank you for your participation, and I look forward to this year’s events!

Michele Titus is an Assemblywoman representing District 31 and the chairwoman of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.