SPOTLIGHT: The Roundtable

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DANEEK MILLER Chair, New York City Council Civil Service and Labor Committee

DANEEK MILLER
Chair, New York City Council
Civil Service and Labor Committee

 Q: How will your past as a former union president inform your agenda as Labor Committee chair? 

DM: My labor background will be invaluable to passing meaningful and effective legislation. … [T]o work together, we need to understand each other’s obligations and needs. [F]or unions and the city to work together requires openness to negotiation. I am intimately familiar with many sides of the debates that continue to live on and the ways in which the laws that we will pass here directly affect working families. As an experienced negotiator, I am looking forward to resolving these issues.

Q: Aside from retroactive raises, do you foresee any other major negotiating points for settling the city’s expired labor contracts? 

DM: There are always going to be outstanding problems to which lasting resolutions are put on hold while other issues demand our limited time. But the importance of taking care of the men and women who make New York great has been understated for far too long. Opening up this dialogue will be a great opportunity to address ongoing problems tied to labor laws, such as the quality of life for workers and their families, healthcare and benefits and extension of benefits to their spouses and dependents. The implications of what we decide today will affect future generations of our great city.

Q. Any other labor issues you hope to address in the City Council? 

DM: The privatization of public jobs … is a major concern. We need to advance the services we provide, not retreat from these responsibilities. Closely related is the struggle low-wage workers throughout our city are confronting.

 


PETER ABBATE Chair, New York State Assembly Governmental Employees Committee

PETER ABBATE
Chair, New York State Assembly
Governmental Employees Committee

Q: What should be the state Legislature’s top labor priority? 

PA: Maintaining the current level of benefits employees of this state have.

Q: The state comptroller’s overtime report showed 2013 overtime costs topped $611 million at a time when the state’s workforce is down. How might the Legislature tackle these rising overtime costs? 

PA: The easiest way to fix the overtime issue is to hire more employees. It is very difficult to do so when there were hiring freezes instituted by past administrations consecutively.

Q: Port Authority leadership and Andrew Cuomo agree that workers at the two major NYC airports should receive raises, but it’s up to airlines to provide them. Can the Legislature influence them? 

PA: The Legislature is the governing body for the state of New York. While we make laws and institute rules and regulations, it is beyond the power of the Legislature to mandate subjects of collective bargaining with private companies. In my opinion, if the airlines believe the employees they have working for them are doing a good job, they should do what’s right by them.

Q: Right in your backyard are several expired labor contracts that need to get done between unions and New York City. How would you advise the mayor to work with these unions to achieve a positive result for all? 

PA: My suggestion to the mayor would be to do what’s right by the employees of the city to maintain the level of services that the city’s residents expect and deserve.

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