Cuomo scrambles labor gains in NYC

cuomo de blasio
The rivalrous, competitive relationship between Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio has not achieved good results for the people of New York State or helped build unity between the people of New York City and the state’s less densely populated areas.  (JASON SZENES/EPA)

By Estevan Bassett-Nembhard

According to the NY Daily News, the Cuomo administration is gearing up to pass statewide reforms that in many ways water down reforms recently passed by the New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio to give fast food and retail workers more control over their schedules.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council recently passed the #FairWorkweek and Fast Food Worker Empowerment bills fought for by Fastfood Forward and the Fight for $15 and a Union movement. Meanwhile, Cuomo is working on statewide legislation that could create confusion within the labor movement by expanding some parts of the legislation, while undercutting larger parts of the #FairWorkweek package. The implementation of different standards in different parts of the state also threatens to weaken and divide the labor movement in New York.

“Cuomo’s regulations,” the article said, would “cover all minimum-wage workers whereas the City Council bills focus just on fast food and retail employees.” They would also “expand the current requirement that some employees who show up for work be paid a certain amount of money if they are sent home.”

However, Cuomo’s regulations also do not ban on-call scheduling, or require employers to offer additional hours to their existing employees before hiring more workers. This means retail workers could continue to face conditions described by retail worker Natasha Oxley, who is also a member of the Retail Action Project, a worker center initiative of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Unions (RWDSU). “I have struggled with maintaining my school schedule, never been able to secure a second job, and I still don’t make enough money to live off of, all because of on-call,” she said at a recent rally. “I once had a coworker who had couch-surfed for over a year because he can only get twelve hours a week reliably, and was on call for the rest of the week, so he was never able to save enough money for his own place to live. He had nearly a three hour commute to the job and found himself calling in to check on whether he was already needed while already on route to work.”

Given Cuomo’s compromises with business owners, employers could also continue to provide insufficient hours to fast food workers, a practice that is frequently used against workers based on their race, gender, age, or based on other prejudices, and is also frequently used to retaliate against workers for speaking out about workplace abuses.

The article stated that according to one source, Cuomo officials “said the state regulations … should be a baseline and allow localities like the city to impose tougher requirements if they want,” leaving worker protections up to chance.

The Governor has demonstrated a pattern of working to undermine the Mayor rather than working cooperatively to improve the city and state together. Like the Independent Democratic Caucus in the State Senate, Cuomo has also has displayed a habit of championing himself as a progressive with half measures that undermine more far reaching efforts.

The NY Daily News article quoted Ted Potrikus, president of the Retail Council of New York State, as saying Cuomo’s half measures currently being developed were not discussed with him. “I would welcome statewide regulations,” he said. “There’s clearly room for improvement, but the last thing we need is New York City doing something and then Westchester County doing something different and then Nassau County.”

“It’s great for the state to do something on this, but it has to be at least as good as what was done in the city and hopefully even better,” another source was quoted as saying.

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