COALITION SEEKS TO EXPAND LIVING WAGE LEGISLATION
The Living Wage Coalition met for the first time last month to begin mobilizing unions and community and religious organizations to support living wage legislation currently being drafted for the New York City Council. It would require that contractors who receive public funds pay their employees no less than $10 an hour with health insurance, or $11.50 an hour if no health insurance is provided.
The city awards billions of dollars each year in contracts for services to be provided to the public and to city government. Too often, the firms that receive these contracts do not provide adequate wages or health benefits to their employees. When employers don’t provide a living wage, workers and their families must rely on the already overburdened social services system for support, indirectly increasing costs to the city. The Living Wage Coalition argues that jobs that pay an adequate wage will increase consumer income, decrease poverty and invigorate neighborhood business.
YELLOW CAB DRIVERS NEED OUR SUPPORT
Local 74, Service Employees International Union, has asked local unions to support legislation pending in the City Council that would end the lease system in New York’s Yellow Medallion Taxicab Industry, returning drivers to employee status.
The city’s 44,000 taxicab drivers currently do not enjoy basic workers’ rights because of their status as independent contractors. They do not receive health insurance, unemployment insurance or pensions. SEIU Local 74 argues that the leasing system forces drivers to work for less than minimum wage, and that the competitive nature of the industry leads to a high accident rate and reckless driving.
Local 802 supports employee status for taxicab drivers and will assist Local 74 in its legislative efforts. The New York City Central Labor Council passed a similar resolution last year and has been very supportive of this legislation.
NYC COUNCIL MEMBERS ACT TO REMOVE TERM LIMITS
On Feb. 7, 22 members of the New York City Council introduced a bill that would remove term limits for City Council members. It was referred to the nine-member Government Operations Committee. A final vote on the bill is not expected until March. Council staff have said that at least one public hearing will be held prior to a vote on whether to bring the bill to the full Council for consideration. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has not indicated his position on the bill.
In two different voter referendums, one in 1993 and the other in 1996, a majority of New York City residents voted to limit all of the city’s elected offices to two consecutive four-year terms. This bill would repeals only the portion of that referendum that applies to City Council seats.
Many groups have already expressed opposition to this bill. Some opponents, such as City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and the New York Public Interest Group, have argued that they do not support term limits, but believe they can only be repealed by a voter referendum.
Some 175 candidates are expected to run for the 36 term-limited Council seats. Most of them have not been expecting to run against an incumbent.
NYS ASSEMBLY SETS HEARINGS ON VOTING PROCESS
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Election Law Committee Chair David Sidikman have announced a series of public hearings that will focus on improving the voting process in New York State. The hearings will also explore ways to prevent the sort of voting problems highlighted during last year’s elections.
“The main purpose of these hearings is to avoid the recurrence of the problems that we had here in New York and those that played out in Florida,” Silver said. “New York’s mechanical voting machines are aging and problematic. We must begin to seek new technologies and ways to make the voting process in New York accurate, reliable, and easy.”
Hearings will be conducted in Albany, New York City, Long Island and Buffalo, with the New York City hearing tentatively scheduled for March 8 at 10:30 a.m., at 250 Broadway, Room 1923.