24 Jun 2010

Howie Hawkins 'raise benefits for unemployed workers'

Hawkins Urge Democratic Leaders to Raise Unemployment Benefits, Pass Farmworkers and Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called upon the state Democrats to take action to help working New Yorkers before going on vacation for the rest of the year by passing legislation to raise unemployment benefits and to extend basic workers rights to farmworker.

Hawkins said he was encouraged that state lawmakers appear to be close to extending basic labor rights to domestic workers and urged them to finish the job.

"Especially in these difficult economic times, New York needs to raise benefits for unemployed workers and make sure that all workers are entitled to basic rights. The Democrats like to claim that are the party of the working person but somehow they can't find the votes to raise unemployment benefits to half of the individuals weekly benefits. NY's max rate for such benefits of only $405 a week has not been raised in a decade and is clearly too low to support a family," said Hawkins.

"Labor advocates assumed that once the Democrats controlled the Senate and the Governor's office, we would finally give farmworkers the same basic rights as other workers after decades off struggle. It is scandal that the Democrats continue to conspire to allows these workers to be treated as second class citizens. I strongly support changing the Farm Bill and other agriculture policies to guarantee our family farmers a decent income rather than wasting tax dollars to subsidize corporate agribusiness, but the failure of agriculture reform is no excuse to delay extending labor protections to farmworkers," said Hawkins.

Legislation has been pending for several years in the state legislature to gradually increase in the unemployment benefit over 4 years, to raise the maximum weekly benefit to $625.00 per week. This is about 50% of the average weekly wage.. It should then be indexed to inflation. The bill would also provide a small increase in unemployment benefits for the lowest paid workers.

Studies have shown that every dollar in unemployment benefits generates a $1.64 increase in economic activity. People who are unemployed spend their unemployment benefits almost immediately, to buy groceries, purchase household necessities, and pay the rent. Their unemployment dollars are quickly dispersed back into the local economy, and help to sustain local businesses, and increase the tax coffers of local governments throughout our state.

The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act grants collective bargaining rights, workers' compensation and unemployment benefits to farmworkers. It also allows laborers on farms a weekly day of rest and overtime pay, and requires safe and sanitary working conditions.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will reform state law to guarantee basic work standards and protections for the nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers who keep New York families functioning and make all other work possible. The Bill of Rights is a comprehensive response to domestic workers’ vulnerability to abuse and mistreatment, and works to counter domestic workers’ exclusion from most labor protections.

"Farm workers and domestic workers were left out of the original Wagner Act/National Labor Relations Act in 1935 at the behest of Democratic leaders in Congress who wanted to keep black workers, who were concentrated in domestic and agricultural labor in that Jim Crow era, super-exploited without any legal recourse. It is shameful that the Democrats still have not fulfilled the implicit New Deal promise of basic workers rights for all workers 75 years later. Our Green New Deal will complete the promise of the original New Deal and take it to the next level of building an economy that is democratic, green, and sustainable." added Hawkins.

The Green Party (www.gpny.org) is committed to ecology, grassroots democracy, nonviolence and social and economic justice.

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