May 13, 2014

New York UFCW Members Lobby Their State Legislators

UFCW locals representing workers across New York traveled to the State Capitol in Albany today to lobby on issues important to working families. Members and staff from UFCW Locals 1, 1500, and 2013, along with RWDSU Locals 338 and 1102 were in attendance.

NY Lobby Day 1

A major focus of the lobby day was to push back against efforts to gut the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which took effect in April of 2011. The law requires that employers give workers written notice of wage rates once a year, a provision some Senate Republicans are targeting for repeal. UFCW members made it clear that wage theft is a serious problem and all workers have the right to know if they are being cheated out of money. They called for the Wage Theft Prevention Act to be strengthened, not weakened by repealing the written notice requirement.

Members also discussed the need to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave legislation. For decades, workers’ wages have stagnated while corporate profits and CEO pay have risen to record heights. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10 an hour today, but instead it sits at only $8.00 in New York. Members demanded that the minimum wage be raised so it is a living wage.

Members lobbied for statewide paid sick leave, building on the momentum of legislation passed in New York City.  They stressed that no worker should be forced to risk their job and their livelihood just because they get sick. Workers without paid sick leave are 1.5 times more likely to go to work sick and contagious than those who have paid sick days. Members said providing paid sick leave would make every workplace more healthy and productive.

Finally, members told their legislators it was long past time to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act, which would include farmworkers under state labor law. This would guarantee that New York’s farmworkers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for the wages and benefits that they deserve. UFCW members understand that all workers must be afforded their fundamental rights.

The lobby day was a great success and members who took part spoke about the importance of meeting directly with their legislators.

“Lobbying is an important way to remind these elected officials who they work for,” said UFCW Local 1500 member John Kubinski, who works at ShopRite in Staten Island. “If we don’t tell them what we want then they cannot properly represent us.”

Local 1500 member Jeff Guardado, who works at Stop & Shop in West Islip, talked about power in numbers. “We’re all fighting for the same cause,” he said. “We stand up for the little people. The little people are many. The powerful are few.”

Local 1500 member Georgette Wilson, who works at Stop & Shop in Hempstead, agreed. “We are here to speak out for those who don’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

Local 1500 member Keith Jefferson, who works at Pathmark in Coney Island, summed up the day. “Too often these elected officials look at papers and they don’t see faces. They need to see faces. I like when my union does this. We fill up the whole bus and all of us come here.”

Members said they will be boarding the bus again next year for the 2015 New York Lobby Day.