Legislative Alert: March 1st, 2021

President's Message

In a Time of Crisis, We need to Provide Services to New Yorkers who Need it Most

New Yorkers have been suffering from the physical, economic and mental health effects of this pandemic for over a year. Mental health issues have affected many New Yorkers, especially youths who have seen a massive increase in suicides over that time. Mental health professionals have highlighted the need to remain vigilant as the stress from the pandemic, job loss, school closures and other economic fallout continues to weigh heavily on the minds of New Yorkers.

Years of budget cuts and capacity reductions have left many New Yorkers with mental health issues facing increasingly limited treatment options. Since 2014, the Office of Mental Health has cut 22% of inpatient adult beds and 32% of children and youth beds. They would continue these cuts by cutting an additional 200 inpatient beds and 100 community-based beds, as proposed in this year’s budget. The failure to ensure adequate state support for mental health services has led many New Yorkers to go without it. The pandemic has only exacerbated these disturbing trends.

New York needs to find a better path forward to meet this challenge. Instead of cutting more beds and services for the mentally ill or reducing state-supported residential services for the developmentally disabled, New York needs to ask its wealthiest citizens to do just a little more. We asked our nurses, truckers, transit workers, grocery workers and other “essential” employees to stand in harm's way to deliver needed goods and services. Now we need the wealthiest among us, our billionaires, and multi-millionaires to contribute their fair share through new tax brackets to shepherd us through this phase of the crisis. With these resources, the state can provide all our mentally ill and those with developmental disabilities with appropriate treatment and care, while relieving local governments from some of the costs associated with ensuring access to treatment.

Mario Cilento, President

Call To Action

Monday, March 8, 2021, 1:00 p.m.
This will be a zoom meeting.

Issue of the Week

Oppose Expanding Autonomous Vehicles (Part GG of S2508/A3008)

The New York State AFL-CIO is strongly opposed to Part GG of S2508. In 2017 the legislature enacted a testing period for autonomous vehicles in New York State including strict safety provisions and a narrow testing window of one year. This was extended in 2019. The current budget proposal would extend that testing period until 2026 and exempts autonomous vehicles from an important provision of existing Vehicle and Traffic Law that requires an operator to have at least one hand on the steering wheel while operating a motor vehicle.

The NYS AFL-CIO strongly opposes this exemption. This provision is an important safety requirement and it is imperative to ensure that human operators are behind the wheel and in control of motor vehicles including autonomous-capable vehicles. Until there are independent safety reviews this change should not be made.

In addition to the obvious safety concerns related to autonomous vehicles, restrictions should be kept in place to ensure adequate oversight and safety of autonomous vehicles for the current demonstrations and tests that are authorized by this section of law. Until the safety issues have been clearly identified and addressed and an economic impact study on jobs in the transportation sector has been performed, clear prohibitions should be in place before any extension or expansion is authorized.

Therefore, this Federation urges this section of the bill be defeated.