Volume CIV, No. 4April, 2004
Local 802 has reprinted the New York State AFL-CIO’s progress report on the current status of bills in the New York State Legislature affecting working families.
On Feb. 24, several bills important to the New York labor movement were moved through the Assembly Labor Committee.
The state AFL-CIO thanks Susan John, Labor Committee chair, and those members of the committee who voted for the passage of our Workers’ Compensation Improvement bill as well as reporting a minimum wage increase bill.
WORKERS’ COMP IS PRIORITY
Workers’ compensation improvement continues to be a priority issue. As we have made clear for some time now, a benefit increase is long overdue. We support a gradual increase of the benefit to reach two-thirds of the state’s average weekly wage. In addition, mechanisms to make all parties in the system more responsible, rewarding good participants and punishing the bad, and instilling competition as a motivator for a better delivery of services are essential. These recommendations are all included within S. 6135/A. 9736.
It is important to note that each of the Republicans on the Assembly Labor Committee voted against passage of A. 9736. This comes on the heels of the Assembly Minority Leader voting against labor-supported bills, as well as the Assembly minority as a group, with the exception of a couple heroic individual Assembly members voting against last year’s revenue bill.
Sadly, despite labor’s efforts to work with the Assembly minority, and our proud tradition of working with both parties in this state to further the cause of working men and women, the Assembly minority apparently take great pride in turning their backs on the needs and concerns of working men and women and their families.
Of course, their votes on workers’ compensation legislation will determine labor’s course of action during the upcoming election season.
RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE
The New York State AFL-CIO has long been on record that an increase in the state minimum wage is necessary for New York’s lowest paid workers to maintain a decent and dignified standard of living. The state federation strongly supports current legislation to increase the minimum wage (S. 3291B or A. 9710).
At its current rate of $5.15 per hour, the value of New York’s minimum wage has drastically declined. The last increase occurred six years ago. The federal minimum wage law, first enacted in 1938, was meant to ensure that all workers would be able to meet their basic needs. Unfortunately, that is becoming increasingly difficult for this state’s lowest paid workers, despite the state constitutional requirement of an adequate minimum wage.
Since the last state increase in 1997, inflation has eroded most of the purchasing power minimum wage workers in New York gained.
A recent study produced by the Fiscal Policy Institute claims, “Increases in the general price level erode the real value of the minimum wage.” The study shows the decline in the value of the minimum wage as it relates to the state’s average weekly wage.
For example, in 1975 a full-time minimum wage worker was paid 38.8 percent of the average weekly wage. By 2002, that number plummeted to 23.2 percent.
An increase in the minimum wage would directly benefit nearly 700,000 New Yorkers currently earning between $5.15 and $6.99 an hour. In addition, an increase in the minimum wage would improve the wages of many of the 500,000 workers currently earning $7 an hour, according to FPI.