Q: What are the key issues facing organized labor?
DS: The private-sector unions, especially the service sector, will continue to pursue a legislative agenda that will bring many of their members into the organized sector. Issues like living wage or prevailing wage and paid sick leave top the agenda for the service and retail unions. For the building trades, the economic collapse has been particularly brutal, and so as we begin to recover they are going to be central to the state’s plans for infrastructure improvements. They will be pursuing an agenda that includes project-labor agreements in exchange for their support for large-scale projects, which will require significant public money. The public sector, which continues to be battered by the recession and public antipathy, will have many battles on the horizon, and not just budgetary. Central to them is not being scapegoated again, and especially fighting any and all attempts to undermine the Taylor Law, most specifically the Triborough Amendment.
Q: What should be done to address pension costs for public-sector workers?
DS: The governor and others in the Legislature enacted a new pension tier this year to ostensibly deal with the rising costs. The truth is, it won’t do anything to deal with the immediate costs. Costs will come down as the economy and the market improve.
However, we must take steps to prevent these kinds of spikes from happening again, i.e., reducing our risk through our investments, having a more realistic rate of return and renegotiating our relationships with money managers. In addition, it is long past time to create a real pension-advisory task force to study the system and make recommendations for the future.
Q: Will the state minimum-wage legislation come back?
DS: The minimum-wage legislation should come back, and I believe it will before the end of the year. The labor movement needs to make sure that raising the bottom line for low-wage workers does not come at the expense of the rest of the workforce. They should be vigilant about linking minimum wage to repeal of Triborough or the Wicks Law.
Q: What are the top issues that impact organized labor?
AD: From “New York Works” to New York’s “Open for Business” campaign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been focused on “jobs, jobs and jobs” and the overall expansion of the state’s economy. The governor’s efforts to bring stability to the state budget while investing wisely in large-scale infrastructure projects will put people back to work in the construction trades and create economic activity that will be felt in every corner of the state. The administration is also working on simplifying regulatory red tape and streamlining the permitting process.
Q: How would you describe the administration’s relationship with organized labor?
AD: Governor Cuomo has focused on building a strong foundation for the state’s economy, which will work to benefit all workers in the state, union and nonunion; public and private. The governor has successfully negotiated difficult but fiscally sound contracts with state public employees. These contracts balance the need to control costs with the reality of maintaining a strong and talented public-sector workforce to do the people’s business. The governor’s emphasis on intelligent infrastructure investments and his long-term economic development strategy based on local priorities developed by regional councils will ensure good jobs for local unions and long-term economic benefits for all communities in the state.
Q: What impact will state projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge have on the labor community?
AD: This summer the governor was able to reach a project-labor agreement with 14 labor organizations that will save taxpayers an estimated $452 million on the project. This agreement creates a collaborative relationship with labor for the entire project, preventing delays and cost overruns while pumping billions of dollars into the state’s economy and providing good paying jobs for thousands of construction workers, suppliers, truck drivers and local small businesses.
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