Gotham Gazette Wed, 17 Jul 2019 06:47:39 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) CUNY’s Turn to Provide Paid Parental Leave for All CUNY commencement

Macaulay Honors College commencement (photo via CUNY)

She hid her growing belly under loose dresses and oversized sweaters when she taught her classes of 30 college students. She avoided the departmental office during normal work hours, retrieving her mail early in the morning. If someone realized she was pregnant, she worried, some excuse would be found to deny her work for the next semester. With a baby on the way, losing her job would have put her and her spouse over the financial edge on which they delicately teetered.

Finally, after securing work, the adjunct faculty member relaxed and let her pregnancy show. Still, she worried about the due date. If there were complications, would she be able to return to work within a week as her employer required?

A story from a past generation? No. At CUNY, many adjunct faculty members – called “part-timers”– avoid telling their department chairs and colleagues about an impending pregnancy because their work is contingent from one semester to the next and they fear non-reappointment. Pregnancy discrimination is difficult to prove as adjuncts can be denied employment for any reason or no reason at all.

Even after that hurdle is successfully cleared, CUNY requires that a woman return to work a week after giving birth. Often, this is difficult for the mother and child. Sometimes, it is impossible. Then, she faces the peril of being unilaterally fired, losing her health benefits as well as her income just when she needs them most.
Sometimes co-workers willingly contribute unpaid labor to spell the new mother in the classroom and kindly administrators look the other way. But in many cases, it seems “easier” to find a new part-time faculty member to teach a class than to provide accommodations for the pregnant one. This discrimination arises from chronic understaffing, the well-worn trope of “interruption” to students’ education, and, especially, a pervasive attitude that, even though they teach more than half of all CUNY courses, adjuncts are seen as little more than the labor they provide.

CUNY still pointedly disavows any institutional responsibility to even long-time workers. Adjuncts don’t even have the right to “bank” unused sick days from one semester to the next, and the oddity of counting only their classroom hours as “work time” makes most ineligible for even the limited protections of the Family Medical Leave Act.

We are hopeful, though, that CUNY will soon see fit to enter the 21st century. Recently, two New York faculty unions, United Federation of Teachers and SUNY’s United University Professors, have won paid parental/caregiving leave for their members. And CUNY’s new interim chancellor, Vita Rabinowitz, is a renowned feminist scholar. While working at Hunter College, she was the founder of the Gender Equity Project, intended to clear away obstacles facing women faculty. At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, over a dozen adjuncts asked her to utilize a new state law as a vehicle for the kind of workplace justice she pioneered earlier in her career.

Under New York Paid Family Leave, workers pay a small supplement and receive partial pay and the right to return to their job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth, adoption, or to care for a sick family member. While private employers are required to implement the PFL, unfortunately, public employers, such as CUNY, can choose whether to opt in or not. So far, CUNY has failed to do so.

Currently, CUNY has over 15,000 “part-timers” who need relief from uncertainty. It’s time for their employer to provide this small modicum of security and stability. Then, paid family leave would make CUNY a place where pregnant women can proudly display their bellies for all the celebration that creating new life brings.

Pamela Stemberg is an adjunct lecturer teaching at CCNY and Hostos College. Marc Kagan is a graduate assistant teaching at Lehman College.

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CUNY’s Turn to Provide Paid Parental Leave for All Sun, 08 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
More Than 400 City Workers Have Utilized De Blasio Paid Parental Leave Policy de Blasio paid parental leave city hall

De Blasio signs parental leave order, Jan. 2016 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

In the nearly two years since Mayor Bill de Blasio made six weeks of paid parental leave available to about 20,000 city employees, more than 400 have taken advantage of the added benefit.

The number through September 30 was 436 individuals, including an almost even split among men (203) and women (221), according to city data (12 who have utilized the program were “unknown” in terms of gender). The policy, announced by de Blasio in December 2015 and signed in January 2016 into retroactive effect beginning November 9, 2015, covers city employees who are not part of labor unions where such benefits must be collectively bargained. De Blasio and his aides have indicated that paid family leave is part of the recently-begun next round of contract negotiations with the city’s municipal unions.

Similar to his implementation of a $15 per hour minimum wage for city employees and those in city-contracted nonprofits, de Blasio’s move on paid family leave has been seen as part of the successful push for similar statewide programs that Governor Andrew Cuomo championed and pushed through the state Legislature in 2016.

"A parent never forgets those first few weeks after their baby is born, and we certainly did not want to stand in the way of those moments,” de Blasio said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Paid parental leave is a common sense policy that will make for healthier and more financially stable working families – making it good for employees and employers. We couldn't be happier that almost two years in it’s proven to be such a useful policy for our new parents."

Before de Blasio’s policy, city employees who wanted to take paid time off to be with a newly born or adopted child had to use vacation and sick days. Employees can still use those other days in addition to the six weeks provided by the city to its managerial and other employees not represented by unions.

According to city data provided to Gotham Gazette upon request, the 436 employees who have availed themselves of the new paid parental leave policy through September 30 average 37.5 years of age and seven years of service with the city. They work at 41 of 63 eligible agencies, a number that includes the Mayor’s Office. A total of more than 10,600 days had been used under the policy, with the average use 24 days.

When de Blasio announced the benefit in December 2015, a City Hall press release said the “new policy brings New York City in line with the most generous localities in the country, Austin and Pittsburgh.”

That press release also noted that the city was ready to enter negotiations with labor unions to extend the benefit to their members -- there are about 300,000 unionized municipal employees, including teachers, police officers, and many others. But, none of the contracts have been amended to include paid parental leave, so it is part of the equation in new contracts being negotiated.

A City Hall spokesperson for labor-related matters, Freddi Goldstein, told Gotham Gazette that “Paid Parental Leave is a benefit that that must be dealt with during contract negotiations and we’ll be having those conversations with all interested parties during the next round of collective bargaining.”

That round of bargaining is already underway for some unions. When de Blasio came into office in 2014, all of the city’s municipal labor unions were operating under expired contracts and there was a great deal of frustration among union leaders and members. De Blasio and his team, led by labor relations chief Bob Linn, moved quickly to settle new contracts, which included retroactive pay raises. But because some of the deals were going back several years, it is again time for a new batch of contracts and an established pattern, whereby the first major contract struck, with the teachers union for example, will establish guidelines for the contracts with other unions.

Beyond the obvious, the December 2015 announcement by the de Blasio administration also noted other reasons to offer paid family leave to employees: “Studies consistently show the positive impact of paid parental leave not just for employees, but also for employers and the people they serve – helping to reduce turnover, while ensuring that employees are able to return to work ready...Additional studies have found that families that benefit from paid leave are less likely to receive public assistance, and that the program can substantially reduce infant mortality rates and improve a child’s overall health.”

According to the city, the current program costs city taxpayers nothing additional, given that it is provided through “repurposing” of a managerial raise scheduled for this past July and of two vacation days allotted to the city’s longest-serving employees.

The state policy signed into law by Cuomo in April 2016, meanwhile, will cover employees at most businesses and nonprofits for 12 weeks of paid parental leave and will begin to be phased in starting in January 2018. It will reach full capacity in 2021, at which time eligible employees will be able to receive “67 percent of their average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.” The program will be funded via a small employee payroll deduction, it will not cost employers anything, other than minimal administrative work. Employees must have worked for their employer for six months to be eligible.

According to City Hall, the state policy will not change the city policy for its relevant staff, nor will it dictate collective bargaining -- it largely applies to the private sector.

[Read: With Some Contracts Now Expired, De Blasio Administration Begins Next Labor Negotiations]

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

More Than 400 City Workers Have Utilized De Blasio Paid Parental Leave Policy Sun, 29 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Jan. 4-8 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York

Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday January 8

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Penn Station rendering, via Governor Cuomo's office on flickr; Mayor de Blasio's signs paid parental leave personnel order for nonunion city employees, via Ed Reed for the Mayor's Office

Penn Station rendering via gov

bdb paid parental leave


1. New Deputy Mayor: On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Dr. Herminia Palacio will take over as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, filling a position that had been vacant for four months. Homelessness is an especially key issue for Mayor de Blasio and his administration, as they work to remedy an increasing homelessness crisis.

2. Cuomo’s Executive Order: Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Sunday requiring all homeless people on the streets be moved into shelters when temperatures fall below freezing, and ordering homeless shelters to extend their hours. The move has been met with some criticism, in part because the city already provides much of the same protections to homeless people. [Read: Something Cuomo & De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement]

3. Cuomo’s 2016 Agenda: Speaking on NY1, Gov. Cuomo said ethics reform will be on the top of his agenda: “I’m going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement.” Cuomo also mentioned economic development and “social justice,” namely the “high unemployment among young minority males,” as being important to him, and has also called to overhaul Penn Station in an upgrade that could cost about $3 billion. The governor has spent the week unveiling key pieces of his agenda, including several infrastructure-related plans. [Read: Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda & Predictions! Experts Look Ahead to New York Politics in 2016]

4. Minimum Wage Hikes: Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday that city employees, including workers contacted through nonprofits, will see their minimum wage increased to $15 an hour by 2018 in a move that will impact an estimated 50,000 workers. Governor Cuomo is expected to make a statewide $15 minimum wage one of the focuses of his State of the State speech next week.

5. Paid Parental Leave Born: On Thursday, Mayor de Blasio signed a personnel order to provide paid parental leave to roughly 20,000 New York City employees. The order provides six weeks of paid time off for parental leave. [Read: De Blasio Moves on Paid Parental Leave]

$3 billion is the price tag for Gov. Cuomo’s push to remake Penn station, the Wall Street Journal reports.

22% decrease in traffic deaths since Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero, the New York Post reports.

1.7% overall decrease in major crime in New York City in 2015, according to statistics released by the NYPD, though certain categories were up, including murder.

50,000 city workers will earn $15 per hour by the end of 2018 under pay raises announced by Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday.

20,000 nonunion municipal employees will be allowed up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave thanks to a new measure signed by Mayor de Blasio, Gotham Gazette reports.

450,000 New Yorkers, give or take, will be able to save upwards of $400 a year on their public transportation expenses now that a new Commuter Benefits Law has gone into effect, Gotham Gazette reports.

26 City Council members signed a letter asking Mayor de Blasio to have his agencies find ways to reduce spending by about 5% before he release his next preliminary budget, Gotham Gazette reports.

129 bills vetoed by Cuomo in 2015, according to Politico New York

It was a good week for Herminia Palacio, who became the new Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (though it is also tough for Palacio in that she is taking one of the most challenging jobs in city government).

It was a bad week for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will pay a $7,000 fine for accepting gifts from a consulting firm during her run for speaker (though it is also good for Mark-Viverito that the issue is being put behind her).

Around this time 146 years ago, on January 3, 1870, ground was broken for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Around this time 50 years ago, on January 4, 1966, during the longest transit strike in New York history (which shut down subways and buses for 12 days), Mike Quill, then-president of the transport workers union, criticized city officials during a press conference broadcast by WNYC. He was arrested days later.

Around this time 69 years ago, on January 6, 1947, the Supreme Court upheld rent controls when they refused to hear a case by New York landlords who wished to raise rents.

Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max appeared on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday to discuss the year ahead in New York politics.

40 Questions for New York Politics in 2016, by Ben Max

Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda, by David Howard King

Good Government Groups Want Legislators to Pledge to Fight for Reform, by David Howard King

Majority of Council Members Urge Mayor to Identify Budget Savings, Samar Khurshid

City to Open Gun Courts to Expedite Prosecutions, by Meg O’Connor

Proposed Zoning Changes Raise Questions About Small Businesses, by Colin O’Connor

Something Cuomo & De Blasio Agree On: City Shelters Need Improvement, by Ben Max

Eyeing Diversity, New Push for Demographic Data on Community Board Members, by Samar Khurshid

Bill Mandates Review of Criminal Justice Programs, by Samar Khurshid

At Homelessness Forum, Manhattanites Voice Local Concerns on Pressing Issue, by Ryan Brady

Time for the Mayor and the Governor to Work Together, by Ben Max (opinion)

More Evidence Punitive NYPD Youth Programs Fail, by Alex S. Vitale (opinion)

Paid Family Leave in NYC: Progressive Policy, Regressive Plan, by Arthur Cheliotes (opinion)

To Fix Penn Station, Think Smaller, by Adrian Untermyer (opinion)

A New York New Year's Resolution: End the AIDS Epidemic, by Doug Wirth (opinion)

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke about the city’s falling crime rates and new gun courts initiative with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

Incoming Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Herminia Palacio, discussed her new role at City Hall with Errol Louis on Inside City Hall.

NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

The Week That Was in New York Politics, Jan. 4-8 Fri, 08 Jan 2016 17:08:56 +0000
Paid Family Leave in NYC: Progressive Policy, Regressive Plan de blasio desk red

The mayor (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Paid parental leave is a hallmark of civilized societies that financially support family values. It is laudable that the City of New York wishes to be included in those ranks, starting by mandating paid parental leave for city managerial employees. But the de Blasio administration does so by having those employees pay for it themselves with a reduction in their next scheduled pay increase and the loss of two vacation days for some. That's hardly an act of a progressive employer.

Many of the managerial employees being covered by the mayor's executive order are not high-salaried executives. Some are managers whose pay starts at $57,210 annually, which translates to $27.50 per hour. City managers with 20, even 30 years of service have passed a series of civil service tests that they must pay to take. Still, some are barely making a living wage.

Most are not policy makers, this work is done by elected officials and agency commissioners. Instead, the managers make sure that the service goals set by the policy makers are met. They are the policy implementers who keep our city running 24/7 no matter who the elected officials and their top-level appointees, who largely most over $200,000 per year.

An adult with one child making $27.40 per hour barely qualifies as making living wage according to the Living Wage Calculator for New York County designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT calculator was used in determining that the minimum wage should be a living wage of $15 per hour. A $15 hourly minimum wage is strongly supported by the de Blasio administration, as evidenced by the mayor's recently announced plan to move all city employees to that minimum over the next couple of years.

De Blasio believes that all those in the private sector, like entry-level fast food workers, should soon make a minimum of $15 per hour too.

Shouldn't the minimum be something more for managers who oversee the spending of millions of tax dollars for vital city services? After years of service, shouldn't those managers be well above $27.40 per hour? And, when we rightfully seek to expand family leave benefits to those managers, shouldn't they not have to sacrifice pay increases?

Cheating city managers out of a full pay increase to pay for a progressive policy like paid family leave challenges the credibility of the city's true commitment to the new parental leave policy. Back in Jamaica, Queens where I grew up it is called "putting your money where your mouth is," which is what I want to see the City do on paid family leave.

The current scheme forces managers to buy their own paid family leave and therefore reduces its impact. Paid family leave is a progressive policy - making employees pay for it is not.

Arthur Cheliotes is President of CWA Local 1180, a municipal union representing more than 8,500 workers and 6,200 retirees. Most work in one of dozens of New York City mayoral agencies; others at the Department of Education, Health and Hospitals Corporation, NYCHA, the Transit Authority, the School Construction Authority, and the state's Unified Court System.

Paid Family Leave in NYC: Progressive Policy, Regressive Plan Thu, 07 Jan 2016 00:23:21 +0000
Newly Hot, Paid Family Leave Passes Assembly Again cuomo opportunity agenda

Gov. Cuomo discussing his agenda (photo: @NYGovCuomo)

In further indication of the growing hunger in New York and across the nation for paid family leave, the State Assembly again passed the Paid Family Leave Act on Tuesday in Albany.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans introduced their one-house budget resolution last week and also put the spotlight on the issue that Governor Andrew Cuomo is quickly having to figure out a plan on - though the Senate's version is different from the Assembly's in terms of funding mechanisms. The governor recently said that the "appetite" did not exist in the Legislature for paid family leave, but in the face of a paid family leave proposal making its way into each house's budget, his office has since said Cuomo supports the policy and his administration is studying the issue.

Upon passing the legislation, which the Democratically-controlled Assembly has passed several times, Speaker Carl Heastie said, "New Yorkers should not have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of a sick family member or spending time with a new one."

As budget negotiations heat up before the April 1 deadline, paid family leave has taken many by surprise as a hot-button issue for these budget and legislative sessions. It now finds itself alongside an increase in the minimum wage, the DREAM Act, education reforms and funding, ethics reforms, and other keys to intense spending and policy talks.

The U.S. falls behind other nations in its lack of a federal paid family leave law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for 12-weeks of job-protected leave for family and medical emergencies with continued health insurance coverage. It covers childbirth (maternity and paternity leave), caring for an adopted or foster child, caring for loved ones and personal illness. The catch: it does not mandate any pay.

New York has its own infrastructure for off-the-job disability in the form of Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI). All private employers are required to provide TDI. Through TDI, a deduction of 60 cents a week from an employee's paycheck covers between five and seven weeks for recovery from childbirth, and injuries and sickness. Only four other states provide TDI benefits -- California, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Hawaii.

But in recent years, besides Hawaii, the other three have modernized TDI to include a paid family leave plan. Hawaii is considering doing the same. "New York is really the next logical state to do it," said Nancy Rankin from the Community Service Society. "It would be an easy and affordable way to make it possible."

When the New York State Assembly passed the Paid Family Leave Act last year, the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate. While Cuomo may be scrambling a bit to imagine his own policy specifics - he, like many lawmakers, is likely wary of the effects such a bill could have on businesses - the Senate included its family leave bill at the behest of the Independent Democratic Conference, which it caucuses with.

In an emailed statement, Heastie, who represents part of the Bronx, said, "No one should have to risk financial hardship or fear losing their job because they need to care for a sick family member. Assembly Democrats do not believe in penalizing the hardworking men and women of this state. We believe in giving them the support they need because when we invest in the health and safety of our families we invest in the future of New York. It is time to pass Paid Family Leave here in New York."

The Assembly proposal, according to a Tuesday press release, calls for expansion of TDI to ensure paid family leave, in part through employee contributions: "Under this measure, employers would be required to offer a paid family leave benefit and could have workers contribute up to 45 cents per week to the policy. This employee contribution would ensure up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, cover two-thirds of the worker's salary and guarantee job security during the absence."

The Senate's proposal came through the IDC, led by Senator Jeff Klein, also of the Bronx. The fundamental difference between the two proposals is that while the Assembly is pushing for expansion of the TDI, Klein's proposal calls for state funding of the benefit. It is projected to cost $125 million in the first year, with funding in subsequent years being bolstered by employee contributions. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' office refused comment citing ongoing budget negotiations. The governor has already rejected the plan for overly relying on state funds.

"It's hard to sustain a private sector benefit if it needs to be renewed each year by the state Legislature," said Donna Dolan, executive director of the New York Paid Family Leave Coalition. "You're calling for funding a private sector benefit from public funding."

The Coalition last week responded to the Governor's 'no appetite' comment with a letter signed by 56 women lawmakers and leaders. The letter stated, in part, "Paid family leave would ensure that no New Yorker has to choose between the health and economic stability of her family. It would mean that the major life moments we all share – the arrival of a new child, or a close relative needing care – do not have to mean debt or bankruptcy."

The expansion of New York's TDI cash benefit has been long in the offing, family leave extension or not. The current benefit level has been frozen since 1989 at $170 a week despite a mandate for it to be at least 50 percent of the average statewide weekly wage. (In 2013, the average weekly wage in New York was $1,200, which would mean a $600 benefit if there was no cap). In comparison, the benefits are $1,104 per week in California, $772 in Rhode Island and $604 in neighboring New Jersey. "To make it meaningful, we need to raise TDI," said CSS's Rankin.

It is unclear where any middle ground for the Senate and Assembly proposals might be. It is hard for anyone to argue with the underlying premise of paid family leave, but the devil is in the funding details - and concerns over impacts on businesses.

"It's good for families and it has been good for business in the states that passed it," said Dolan. She suggests bringing business representatives from New Jersey to give the Senate reports on paid family leave.

But business leaders don't necessarily agree. President and CEO of Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde said, "Every time there's a new requirement that takes people out of the workplace, that removes people off a job, that requires even a temporary replacement, you can't say there's no impact." She added, "It's important that the state Legislature and the City Council recognize that there's a cumulative impact of their actions on employers and on New York's attractiveness as a place to build a business."

As New York lawmakers struggle to find a solution to this long-standing demand, the movement for paid family leave is gaining momentum. In its annual survey, the Unheard Third, CSS found 84 percent approval for paid family leave last year, up from 76 percent in 2005. Even President Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union address this year and is attempting to pass the Healthy Families Act which would create a $2 billion fund to help states with paid family leave.

"It goes beyond policy to a basic value," said Rankin. "Why wouldn't we do this and why wouldn't we do it now?"

by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette

Newly Hot, Paid Family Leave Passes Assembly Again Tue, 17 Mar 2015 21:00:31 +0000