New York: two giant steps toward a progressive economy

Andrew Cuomo gets a lot of grief in progressive circles. New York’s Governor has engaged in a petty spat with progressive New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. He created an ethics commission that began cleaning up the Augean stable of Albany politics — and then kneecapped the panel when things got a little too close for comfort. He’s been accused of excessive coziness with Wall Street and big business.

But damn if he didn’t just deliver a couple of big policy initiatives that seem downright unattainable in allegedly progressive Vermont.

On the last day of March, the New York State Legislature finalized a budget deal that included not only a promise to raise the minimum wage to $15, but also the nation’s newest — and by far its strongest and most comprehensive — bill mandating paid-family-leave time for most employees.

That’s right. While Vermont politicos are patting each other on the back for passing a much smaller minimum-wage hike and a minimal paid-sick-leave measure, New York has leapfrogged us (and the nation) on both.

The program will mandate up to 12 weeks of paid time off from a job to bond with a new child (including adopted or foster children), or to care for a gravely ill parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member. The duration of the leave, while still far from the 40 weeks guaranteed in the U.K. or even the 16 weeks provided in Bangladesh, doubles the 6 weeks allotted in California and New Jersey, and triples the 4 weeks of paid leave offered by Rhode Island.

New York’s program will cover pretty much everybody: full-time and part-time employees, no matter how big or small their employer.

Meanwhile in Vermont, passing the paid sick leave bill was like pulling teeth, as business interests opposed it every step of the way. And many a Democratic politico gave substantial deference to their prophecies of doom.

And even thinking about paid family leave, or a $15 minimum wage, seems totally unrealistic.

Hey, Vermont: if we really want to be the nation’s progressive lodestar, we’ve got some serious catching up to do.

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6 thoughts on “New York: two giant steps toward a progressive economy

  1. David R Hall

    There are so many different needs that individuals have why legislate solutions for each special case. Seems that the best approach would be to figure out how to create an economy so efficient that the cost of living was low and because of demand for workers the pay high and employers flexible and generous so that employees did not leave.

    Demand for labor caused by a robust economy is the best way to obtain social justice for the labourer.

    Reply
  2. ApacheTrout

    I have very mixed feelings about a $15/hr minimum wage. As an employer, I start my seasonal workers at $11/hr, and then move them up to a higher rate when warranted by performance. These are seasonal, entry level positions where experience is not required, nor is a college degree. In other areas of the country, these positions would often be filled by migrant workers at the prevailing minimum wage, but I recognize that minimum wage is wholly inadequate as a living wage. But the idea of paying $15/hr for this work is startling.

    As a business owner, I’m not making a killing, and in fact some would say I made a poor financial decision in switching form a well-paying (but extremely unsatisfying and mentally stressful job) to starting my own business. But I’m in this for the long haul and believe I’m creating something that over time will be financially rewarding for myself and the community I live in, as it will give local kids are great place to find work where the options are currently very limited.

    The $15/hr minimum wage won’t break me, but with three seasonal employees, it would add at least $8,000 onto payroll expenses. It’d be almost like adding a 4th employee at the $11 per hour without getting the benefit a 4th employee brings (such as increase inventory, or increased speed at job completion). All things being equal, this would actually be $8,000 out my own pocket. As the owner, that would reducing my income from $40k-$45k a year to $32k-$37k a year. And for all the financial risk (think 2nd mortgage) that I carry as owner, that kind of income starts to looking quite paltry

    Reply
    1. Faith King

      I understand your concern – and certainly your overall income level is not all that high. However, another perspective, frankly, is that while you pay $11/hr for what you call “entry level work”, no adult can live on that wage. Kids can, sure, but not adults. We do not have “entry level” housing, entry-level food bills, entry-level utilities or transportation costs. According to the Vt. Legislative Joint Fiscal Office (2015), the lowest acceptable “basic needs wage” was $13.11 in 2014. And that would only allow a single person who was sharing housing to meet their basic needs. In a rural area, to boot. The needed wage rises to $14.52 for a single person sharing housing in an urban area. If this single person/employee is living on their own, this person needs $15.42 in a rural area to make end’s meet. Quite simply, worker’s need to be paid enough to live – as a mark of basic dignity and respect. Frankly, I think what Vermont desperately needs are businesses which CAN pay adult’s decent wages for a day’s work – allowing these same adults do achieve some measure of basic security in their day-to-day lives – not businesses that are unable to do this. We need jobs that allow people to buy clothes, fix their cars once in awhile and stay current on their light bills. Businesses that expand and hire employees, but can’t pay them enough to live on, need to realize their endeavor in many respects is reckless. The social costs of these ‘barely-enough-to-buy-gas-jobs’ are just too great for our communities in the long-run…….

      Reply
  3. Dave Katz

    I’ve been banging my gums ’til they’ve bled on the subject, but let’s go yet again: Under the Bush nee Obama tax giveaway of 2004 (passed then with a sunset provision, but–as with the Great Panama Tax Haven Act W. also initiated, that virtually guaranteed no meaningful recovery of illicit tax haven cash– Obama then codified both into the law of the land, forever and a day, yeehaw), Vermont’s upper tier of income-“earners” have realized roughly $190 million in windfall unearned money A YEAR since 2004. Do the math. But there’s never enough revenue available, at least according to the Leg, to get in the damn car and drive the f*ck outta Galt Gulch–to, y’know,actually improve the lives of Vermont’s working people, which is north of 90% of the populace here, last time I looked.

    So, yeah, maybe Andrew busted a slight sweat when Zephyr Teachout, of the Vermont Teachouts, yay!– ran far to Cuomo’s left and garnered a pretty impressive vote tally, especially for a newbie political unknown. At least Andy proved capable of learning enough politically to identify some core constituencies out there in flyover country and respond to their demands. Quelle Bernie Sanders rally turnout numbers!

    Sad to say, the only core constituency our Exceptional Vermont Dems seem able to recognize is the bidness one, perpetually yowling about how they couldn’t POSSIBLY do ANY MORE to restore a fair social economy for all those peons who can’t afford a week at Stoweflake. Can’t ya just hear Thurston Howell III drawling how It’s just reeaaally too bad, right? to be us, for our crummy shrinking disposable incomes and for the disappearing commonwealth most of these pricks benefited mightily from, and then abandoned?

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Aside from the Teachout scare, Cuomo was also motivated by setbacks in his own personal life. He lost his father last year, and his longtime partner had a bout with cancer. In his State of the State address, he talked about how his experience reminded him that family time is precious. Too bad he had to learn empathy the hard way.

      Reply

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