Legislative Alert: May 17, 2021

President's Message


Reopening the Economy, the Right Way for Workers; Index the Minimum Wage

Unfortunately, unemployment continues to plague specific regions and industries including hospitality, hotel and entertainment as well as office work and many others. That is why the federal government’s help for claimants must continue beyond September, at least for the short term. The good news is, many businesses have been able to slowly reopen at lower capacities. Over the next few months, capacity is expected to expand and more will re-open helping get people back to work and the economy back on track.

As we reopen the economy, we should ensure that workers are being paid a decent wage. Recent reports that businesses in some areas of the state are finding it hard to recruit workers is reflective of the minimum wage not keeping pace with the needs of working families. While New York City and the surrounding areas have reached $15 an hour, much of the state continues stuck below $15 per hour. It is time to gradually get the rest of the state caught up and at the same time, index the areas that have reached $15 per hour.

Recent inflationary trends along with increases in gasoline prices and other services, while hopefully temporary, is already eroding the value of the current minimum wage. Combined with ever escalating health care costs, childcare and other expenses, it is critical that the minimum wage keep up with the economy.

Indexing the benefit will ensure gradual, affordable and predictable increases that workers and employers can plan for and count on. This makes it easier for businesses to budget and plan for their labor costs rather than force unpredictable and large increases every 5 or 10 years. Indexation and gradual increases will also serve to encourage people back to work and help the reopening process.  

Mario Cilento, President

LABOR LOBBYISTS MEETING
Monday, May 24, 2021, 1:00 p.m.
Senator Michael Gianaris, Deputy Majority Leader will be the guest speaker.
This will be a zoom meeting.

Issue of the Week

HELP WORKERS THAT RECEIVED ERRANT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

(A. 6666 Joyner/S. 6169 Hoylman)


This bill implements federal requirements that the state must meet to grant relief to workers from recoupment of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments that was sent to them in error. Workers must be able to prove that the error was not their fault and that recoupment would cause hardship. The bill would extend this protection for future events and codify the same protection for situations involving state level benefits.

The unemployment system was overwhelmed due to the pandemic and there are numerous occasions when workers received unemployment benefits or overpayments through no fault of their own. Eligibility for benefits varies depending on industry, earnings and other factors and the system is difficult to navigate under normal circumstances.

Given these complexities, many individuals filed accurate claims and relied on the DOL for processing and administration. With the sheer number of claims, coupled with the complexities and chaos of the situation, it is reasonable to assume some people received benefits or benefit levels that were in error and did not realize it.

Many working families are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. And for those who remain unemployed or underemployed, paying back the benefits is not possible. In the interest of fairness and helping those in need, the state should follow the lead of the federal government on this issue and forgo the recoupment of the funds now and into the future.

Therefore, this Federation urges this bill be passed.