What a year it’s been.
Working men and women all across this state are making their voices heard and seeing the results.
The New York State AFL-CIO represents 2.5 million members and has 3,000 local affiliates. But our real strength comes from working together, standing together and speaking with one voice.
That strength led to unprecedented victories over the past year. The labor movement achieved significant gains that will benefit not only unionized workers but all working people. Our fight for a more balanced economy to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots is succeeding and working men and women and our economy are benefiting.
Two big wins that are game changers are paid family leave and the increase in the minimum wage. These two issues alone will make a world of difference for working men and women in this state. Three million workers in New York state will see their wages go up due to the $15 per hour minimum wage. And, the groundbreaking benefit of paid family leave will have a positive impact on working people by allowing them to put their families first during times of need.
But there is much more.
Labor pushed hard and won record funding for infrastructure projects. Funding for public education reached an all-time high this year. Labor successfully prevented changes to the workers’ compensation system that would have harmed workers, and union employers alike.
We continue to stave off perennial efforts to roll back important safety measures such as the “Scaffold Safety Law” — a safety law to stop preventable workplace injury and death.
The service of all of our veterans was validated with the signing of the veterans’ service credit bill, which for the first time equally recognizes women who proudly served. Veterans who served at any time are now eligible to purchase up to three years of retirement credit in the public retirement system in recognition of their service.
All unions came together to save hundreds of jobs in Central New York at the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant and in the North Country at the Alcoa plant in Massena. This was not just a fight about preserving solid middle-class jobs; it was a fight to ensure the entire region can thrive.
An unprecedented show of support from union members from all sectors helped members of the Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers prevail in their quest to prevent the outsourcing of good American jobs at Verizon. They spent six weeks out on strike against a corporate giant and won better wages, working conditions and job protections.
And, there’s more good news.
According to the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York remains the most unionized state in the country, with 24.7 percent of the workforce belonging to a union. And, we’ve added nearly 60,000 new members to the labor movement over the past year.
We have much more to accomplish.
We will continue to push for “Buy American” legislation that would create a preference for American manufactured steel, iron and component parts in public works projects, which would stimulate manufacturing and create jobs.
The New York Constitution requires prevailing rate be paid to workers on public works projects, yet some projects that include private investment have been exempt. We must get back to the true intent of the law, ensuring that our tax dollars are not used by low road employers to undercut contractors that provide family-sustaining wages and benefits.
And, while we have been successful in raising the floor for low wage workers, we need to make sure public employees, who made tremendous sacrifices over the past decade, including reductions in workforce and diminished benefits, share in the prosperity of an improving economy.
Yet, while we take time to celebrate our accomplishments and plan for the year ahead, we are also gearing up for what’s to come. Attacks by our opponents are all around us, which is why in November, we have to come together to ensure we elect candidates committed to improving the lives of working people.
So on this Labor Day when you enjoy time with family and friends, know that the labor movement here in New York state is stronger than ever and fighting to restore the American dream for all working men and women.