NY Legislative Agenda 2021

2021 New York Legislative Session Roundup

Despite all of the challenges - a global pandemic, everything being moved online, important elections in Georgia and NYC, and so much more - we have had one of the best sessions we have ever! Even though we couldn’t flood the halls of Albany with a sea of red shirts, we made our voices heard loud and clear and brought home BIG wins for members. 

How We Did On Our Legislative Priorities

Budget Fights: 

  1. Revenue - PASSED! The final budget raised $4.3 billion in new revenue by taxing the ultra-rich and major corporations. The revenue raised through these modest tax increases will help rebuild our schools, hospitals, and universities; bolster our public services; support excluded workers; and ensure economic stability - all desperately needed measures in the wake of the pandemic.

  2. Broadband Mapping Bill - PASSED! The “Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act” was included in the budget - with $1 Million in funding attachedThis is a critical first step to ensuring all New Yorkers have access to broadband. We know that having more accurate data on broadband access will help us close the digital divide - and potentially create more work for CWA members to hook up unserved or underserved New Yorkers.

  3. In-State Offshore Wind Turbine Manufacturing - PASSED! We passed budget language that would incentivize in-state manufacturing of wind turbines as part of New York’s massive program to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind production. This is an important first step in helping New York develop green, manufacturing capacity and becoming a leader in the green economy!

  4. Funding for new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies - PASSED! We won $3.1 Million in funding the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

  5. Ensure MTA telecom work is done by CWA: WON! The Executive Budget proposal included language that would have allowed the MTA to do our work, moving telephone infrastructure or conduit in their transit systems with their own employees or to contract it out. We fought for and won the removal of this provision which would mean the loss of CWA work and good union jobs. 

  6. GSEU Fee Waiver: Did not win. We came incredibly close to passing a plan to phase out fees paid by SUNY graduate workers over 4 years with the Assembly and Senate on board and including the measure in their budgets. But in the end, we couldn’t get it past the finish line. The fight is not over - and we’ll come back stronger next time around!

  7. Casinos Expansion: Did not pass. CWA represents over 80 workers at the MGM casino in Yonkers. Negotiations around expanding downstate casinos have been ongoing for years and this year, we joined this fight! Expanding the casino would give us more organizing opportunities. Unfortunately, the legislature couldn’t reach an agreement on a process for downstate casinos. 

Post-Budget Legislative Wins:

  1. Safe Staffing (Nursing homes and hospitals) - PASSED! We passed legislation that requires nursing homes to put patient care first by including a staffing ratio for direct patient care. As for hospitals, we (CWA along with SEIU1199, and the New York State Nurses Association) won legislation that takes a significant step forward in ensuring adequate staffing in our hospitals. The proposal would implement hospital-by-hospital staffing committees, made up of equal parts labor and management, that create staffing plans for each unit and shift. The centerpiece of this bill is real enforcement and transparency provisions that ensure hospitals follow the plan and provide real consequences to understaffing. The bill also codifies some ratios that are currently in regulations - but not being followed.

  2. NY HERO - PASSED! This is a bill that we have been fighting tooth and nail for throughout the COVID-19 pandemic along with other labor and community groups demanding stronger safety standards and protections for workers. The NY HERO Act will strengthen worker protections during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by creating new health and safety standards during airborne infectious disease outbreaks, giving workers a stronger voice on the job, and holding employers accountable for dangerous workplaces.  

  3. Fiber Acceleration - PASSED! Far too many consumers are denied a competitive choice of broadband providers because building and property owners block broadband providers from gaining access to deliver broadband services. In New York City alone, there are over 160,000 properties that Verizon can't access. This exacerbates the digital divide, results in higher prices and lower quality service, prevents competitive choice, and leaves too many New Yorkers without access to the most advanced broadband services. This legislation gives internet service providers the right to access any building where there is or was telephone service for the purpose of upgrading the copper to fiber in order to deploy broadband service to New Yorkers. 

  4. Broadband Regulation - Advanced. We were able to pass this bill out of the Assembly Corporations Committee, build up co-sponsors, and get publicity! We feel really good about the position this bill is in for passage next year. This legislation explicitly grants the Public Service Commision oversight authority of broadband and VoIP to ensure quality, resiliency and public safety. This legislation reestablishes oversight of the communications industry, strengthens network resiliency, and protects consumers. 

  5. Worker Retention in Call Centers - Advanced. We were able to build up the co-sponsorship of this legislation and get some good media publicity on why this legislation is important given the ongoing fight to protect our members’ jobs on Staten Island. This legislation requires that current workforces of Government-contracted call centers are retained if the contract is awarded to a new contractor. Such worker retention policies are a best practice in service contracting. It ensures a continuity of well-trained and experienced workers, which can help ensure high service quality. It also prevents disruption to vulnerable frontline workers.

This is widely considered to be one of the most productive and progressive legislative sessions in recent memory - by far!  While we already know this, this session has proved it loud and clear: ELECTIONS MATTER. The tides have shifted in Albany, and we’re able to make change on a broad range of topics impacting working people across the State.



Click here to download the full CWA D1 2021 Legislative Agenda + Memos of Support

TELECOM

Broadband For All: This package of legislation ensures that all New Yorkers have access to high-speed, high-quality, affordable broadband.

  • Oversight for Quality & Resiliency of Broadband by the PSC: This legislation explicitly grants the PSC state oversight authority of broadband and VoIP to ensure quality, resiliency and public safety.
  • NYS Lifeline Broadband Program: This legislation establishes a state broadband lifeline program to ensure subsidized broadband for low-income New Yorkers.
  • Regional Broadband Councils: This legislation establishes regional broadband councils which provide forums for stakeholders, allowing them to develop broadband plans and apply for state grants in order to further broadband access in their region.

Preventing Exclusive Arrangements in Multiple Dwellings Unit: This legislation would prevent building owners of multiple dwelling units from having exclusive arrangements with cable providers ensuring that consumers have multiple options for service.

HEALTHCARE

Safe Staffing: This legislation would protect healthcare workers and patients by establishing mandatory staff to patient ratios. 

NY Hero (Sen Gianaris / AM Reyes): This legislation would create health and safety standards for workplaces, including PPE and social distancing, in order to protect workers and the public in the case of an airborne infectious disease, like COVID-19. Additionally, this legislation would authorize the creation of health and safety committees to allow employers and employees to work together to ensure safety in the workplace.

PUBLIC SECTOR

Mandatory Access Information for Public Sector Unions: This legislation would mitigate the impacts of the JANUS decision by ensuring that phone numbers of new hires/transfers are included as part of the information that public employers are required to provide to public employee unions. Currently, only the name, address, job title, employer information and work location are the required information.

Funding for CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies: CWA is one of the three founding unions of CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies and its predecessor, The Murphy Institute. Since 1984, CWA Local 1180 has collaborated with CUNY’s labor program to offer higher educational opportunities to its members. The CWA 1180 Urban Leadership program is a special sequence of courses and projects for students in Urban or Labor Studies degree and certificate programs. It offers students opportunities for experiential and applied learning. In 2020, we will continue to fight to secure the necessary funding for the hiring of faculty, the development of new programs, and an increase in student enrollment.

GRAD STUDENTS

Graduate Student Worker Fee Waiver (Pichardo / Stavisky): This legislation eliminates fees for full or half time graduate student teaching or research assistants.

LABOR & ORGANIZING

Worker Retention in Call Center Contracts: This legislation would require that incumbent workforces of Government contracted call centers are retained if the contract is rebid and awarded to a new contractor.

Banning Captive Audience Meetings (Sen. Ramos / AM Reyes): Captive audience meetings are mandatory meetings often used in union-busting campaigns. This legislation would prevent employers from requiring employees to attend any mandatory meetings during work hours.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

Progressive revenue streams:

  1. Ultra-Millionaires Tax: This would institute a series of bracket increases in the income tax, starting at $1,000,000 a year, to ensure that high-income New Yorkers pay their “fair share” on ultra-millionaires. Raises $4.5 billion.
  2. Pied-a-terre tax (S.44 Hoylman / A.4540 Glick): This bill would create a progressive tax on absentee owners' second luxury condos in NYC worth $5 million dollars or more. Raises $300-$600 million.
  3. Banning Stock BuyBacks: a small "sales" tax that would be paid by corporations on "stock buybacks," a practice that was long illegal and only serves to pump up the value of stock shares held by CEOs and short-term investors. Raises $3.2 billion.
  4. Stock Transfer Tax: Sales tax on Wall Street stock transfers, which are currently rebated under State law. Raises $13 billion.

CLIMATE JUSTICE

Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA): Building on the Climate and Community Protection Act, this legislation would help fund the transition to a renewable energy economy by making polluters pay for the damage they’re doing to our climate and our communities. The revenue from this would be used to implement the CCPA and ensure a just transition.