This article first appeared in Newsday by David M. Schwartz
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed Monday for paid family leave legislation and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour at a rally with labor leaders and elected Democrats in Hauppauge.
Cuomo said voter anger in the presidential primaries comes from frustrated middle class voters who are dealing with stagnant wages and rising property taxes.
“In this economy too many employees are treated as a commodity,” Cuomo said. Paid family leave and a higher minimum wage “would make a practical difference in peoples’ lives.”
Cuomo pitched a plan earlier this year to give New Yorkers up to 12 weeks of leave at up-to two-thirds pay so they can care for newborns or sick relatives. Cuomo said concerns from businesses about the added regulation are “baloney” because employees would pay into the fund.
A spokesman for State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said Friday that the majority is open to the concept of paid family leave and reviewing programs in other states.
The Business Council of New York State, an Albany-based lobbying group, said the proposals “would place an undue burden on small businesses” by creating staffing and compliance problems.
The 12 weeks of paid leave would double the time offered in California and New Jersey and triple what’s offered in Rhode Island, the only other states to implement similar benefits.
Under Cuomo’s wage proposal, the minimum in New York City would rise from the current $9 an hour to $15 by the end of 2018; elsewhere in New York, it would rise to $15 by mid-2021.
Cuomo on Monday spoke to more than a hundred people at the IBEW union hall in Hauppauge.
He urged voters to contact local state legislators and tell them to support his family leave and minimum wage plans.
“If we win legislators on Long Island, we win this statewide,” he said.
Cuomo was introduced by Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who said they’d campaign for the proposals over the next three weeks. The deadline for the state to pass the budget is April 1.