Big Victories for Workers as Legislative Session Ends
Workers’ Compensation Raised and Indexed, Captive Audience
and Independent Hearing Officer Legislation Passed Both Houses
Albany, NY - New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento issued the following statement on end-of-session victories for workers.
“We commend and thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and the Democratic Majorities in both houses for passing legislation that prioritizes worker protections.
“Among the bills passed is legislation that addresses the long history of employers using so-called “captive audience” meetings to force their views on personal decisions related to religion, health care, politics, or joining civic or fraternal organizations or labor unions.
“This bill protects workers by preventing employers from taking adverse actions against their employees for refusing to participate in such meetings. No worker should feel compelled to attend these meetings for fear of retaliation.
“We are pleased the state legislature has passed another critical worker protection by amending a section of the Civil Service Law to require the appointment of an independent hearing officer in disciplinary actions brought against a public employee by a public employer.
“Under present law, an employer bringing charges against an employee for an alleged disciplinary infraction selects the hearing officer and after a disciplinary proceeding, may impose judgment based on the recommendation of the hearing officer. That means the appointing authority acts as the prosecutor, judge, and jury, a circumstance in direct contrast to the American legal system and the due process of law.
“This bill will bring impartiality and fairness to disciplinary hearings.
“And finally, Injured workers will be treated more fairly with the passage of a bill that raises and indexes the minimum workers’ compensation benefit.
“The minimum benefit for injured workers is currently $150 per week, far too low leaving injured workers unable to support themselves, much less a family.
“The legislation passed includes step increases that will begin for those injured on or after January 1, 2024, to $275 per week. The next increase to $325 per week begins for those injured on or after January 1, 2025, and from there, the rate is indexed for workers injured on or after July 1, 2026, to one-fifth of the statewide average weekly wage moving forward.
“Collectively, these important pieces of legislation ensure New York State leads the way when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.”