December 23, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Labor advocates are hailing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s move to extend six weeks paid parental leave to about 20,000 municipal employees – even though the welcome action does not immediately include members of the city’s 300,000 unionized workforce.
The roughly 20,000 managerial and non-union workers included in the plan will achieve the vital benefit via executive order, while unionized workers will have to wait until their locals have a chance to sit down with the city at the bargaining table.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller, chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, nevertheless, called the mayor’s action “another victory for working families throughout the City of New York.”
“The installment of paid paternal leave for 20,000 municipal employees sets a higher standard of dignity as we seek to craft a more progressive and compassionate city,” Councilmember Miller said in a statement. “All New Yorkers deserve to carry out their familial responsibilities without risking financial jeopardy.”
The new protections guaranteeing eligible municipal workers time off at 100 percent salary, covers maternity, paternity, adoption and foster care leave.
Hector Figueroa, head of 32BJ SEIU, followed up his unequivocal support of the mayor’s controversial affordable housing plan, by saying that Hizzoner’s latest action extending paid parental leave to a limited number of municipal workers, is among the most progressive policies for public sector workers in the nation.
“Our members know how important it is to have a comprehensive paid paternal leave policy that allows them to raise their families and be there for their children,” Figueroa said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the administration on this policy and others to make workplaces humane, supportive and family-sustaining.”
Those efforts are going to have happen sooner rather than later to appease everyone in the house of labor, however.
CWA Local 1182, the union representing city’s uniform traffic and sanitation enforcement agents, hasn’t had a new contract in six years, and is currently wrangling with the city over a new agreement that includes a revamped pay schedule for members.
“Every New York City employee should have paid parental leave,” Local 1182 President Syed Rahim told LaborPress. “It’s a disgrace that we don’t have it.”
At this point, it’s unclear exactly which unions will be first to sit down with the city to start talking about paid parental leave for their members. The administration insists that it wants those negotiations to begin “as soon as possible.”
“We have been trying for years to interest various city administrations in expanding parental leave, and finally have a willing partner on an issue that is very important to us,” United Federation of Teachers [UFT] Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “We look forward to negotiating with the administration for an appropriate way to extend and expand parental benefits for our members.”
New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez also praised Mayor de Blasio for taking executive action on paid parental leave, and said that the CLC will continue to work to ensure that the provisions are expanded to include unionized workers.
Deborah Axt, executive director of the 18,000-member worker advocacy group known as Make the Road New York, similarly expressed her hope that all New Yorkers will soon have the paid family leave they deserve.
"Working parents should be able to take care of their newly-born children without worrying if they'll be able to make ends meet,” Axt said in a statement. “This announcement means a major improvement in the quality of life of 20,000 New York families, who will be able to prioritize taking care of their children at that most important phase of life.”