The New York City Council is hoping to pressure Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to provide a paid family leave policy to all public employees, in a city where just 7 percent of municipal workers are guaranteed time off after the birth of a child. It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing push by unions to get the benefit for their members.
The New York City Council Committees on Education and Civil Service and Labor are holding a joint hearing on Monday afternoon to hear from municipal employees testifying on the issue.
Starting in 2016, de Blasio introduced six weeks of fully paid time off for mothers or fathers having or adopting a new child. But that only applied to some 20,000 managerial employees out of the city’s full-time workforce of approximately 300,000.
And starting at the beginning of this year, a state law gave most private employees up to eight weeks of paid family leave – but public employees were left out. Instead, most city employees have to accrue general use “sick days” over years of employment if they want to take time off after the birth of a child.
“When I explain to people that educators have to use sick days to raise a newborn? It is a twisted approach to a broken system that needs to be addressed immediately,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger, who’s leading the hearing as chairman of the Education Committee.
Treyger told City & State that the Council can’t just pass a law to rectify this. Paid family leave would need to be negotiated in the city’s contracts with each of its municipal unions.
“I’m asking for the mayor to negotiate in good faith with our city’s labor unions and to make sure that we have an existing, fair and just paid parental leave policy,” Treyger sad.
The city’s contract with one of its largest unions, the United Federation of Teachers, expires in November. The politically powerful UFT has been publically pushing the issue amid contract talks. The union held a rally on the City Hall steps last week.
The mayor’s office has expressed concerns about the cost of implementing paid family leave for the entire workforce, but has signalled openness to the proposal.
“This administration cares deeply about ensuring the city’s most dedicated public servants have the benefits they deserve, including paid parental leave,” said deputy press secretary Freddi Goldstein in a statement provided to City & State. “We’re currently in discussion with the UFT over this very topic and hope to come to an agreement soon.”
Treyger, a former teacher and UFT delegate, said the council hearing isn’t just about his old union.
“This is about all city workers,” he said. “It will help improve public health outcomes, it will help close the gender equity gap it will retain quality city workers. This should not be used as a bargaining chip, or a negotiation tactic.”