New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Rockland County today, rallying support for paid family leave, a proposal he unveiled in his combined State of the State/budget address. Cuomo told a roomful of supporters in West Haverstraw waving “Strong Families Strong New York” banners that his proposal would benefit especially women, minorities and low-income workers as well as strengthen families, the workforce and economy.
“Our paid family leave is the most aggressive proposal in the country. It’s 12 weeks, it is funded by employees who pay in to a fund, about $0.70 a week. And that fund then is basically an insurance fund to pay other employees when they take paid family leave,” Cuomo says. “You’ll hear the opponents say, ‘Oh it’s going to cost business a lot of money.’ You know what it costs businesses? Nada, scatta, niente, nula. Nothing.”
Democratic Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski’s district includes West Haverstraw. He says it makes sense for Cuomo to rally there.
“Haverstraw and West Haverstraw really have a long history of working men and women that built this county and built this country. West Haverstraw, founded in 1883, was the site of the Garner Printworks which, for a long time, employed many working-class men and women,” says Zebrowski. “And, of course, the Town of Haverstraw, which later today with Supervisor Phillips will celebrate our 400th anniversary of the founding of the Town of Haverstraw, had the brickyards. At one time, the brickyards in the Town of Haverstraw built about two-thirds of the buildings in New York City.”
Meanwhile, during the governor’s rally, state Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Cuomo, the Senate Democrats and Assembly are fighting to pass paid family leave.
“So what do we have to do? We have to bring our Republican colleagues along,” says Stewart-Cousins. “Our Republican colleagues are talking about family values. What better family value than paid family leave, paid family leave.”
Last week, the Business Council of New York State released its analysis of proposals saying that, if enacted, New York would have the most expansive and least business-friendly Paid Family Leave law of three others in the nation — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — where paid leave is no more than six weeks. Ken Pokalsky is vice president of government affairs at the Business Council. He questions that there would be no cost to employers, among other issues.
“It is the case that I have to hear from a single one of our 2,400-member companies to endorse any of the three paid leave proposals before the state legislature,” Pokalsky says. “So there is a significant level of concern out there among businesses of how this would impact their ability to manage their workforce.”
“Only Papua New Guinea and Suriname are the only two countries that don’t do this. This is the United States of America and we’re missing a basic platform of humanity and decency and respect for family,” Cuomo says. “We hear on TV from all of the presidential wannabees, ‘family values, family values, family values.’ Well you know what? To me, this is family values – paid family leave.”
Last week, Cuomo took his paid family leave rally to Harlem and Buffalo. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, introduced Cuomo, saying paid family leave is especially important for women, and that it is essential nationwide.
“I give total paid leave to all my employees in my congressional office both here in the district and in Washington,” Lowey says. “However, on the federal level, the law still does not provide for paid leave. And it’s an embarrassment. The Republicans try and kill it every single time it comes up.”
Lowey is one of several co-sponsors of the FAMILY Act, or Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. It is the same bill introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.