Top leaders in the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being urged in a letter by members of the clergy to push forward with a bill that is meant to boost rights for workers in the "gig" economy amid opposition from labor organizations and unions.
"Workers need a voice today, not tomorrow. They need protections today, not tomorrow. And they need benefits that will fit their way of working and their way of life for years to come," they wrote in the letter obtained Thursday by Spectrum News. "While politicians have the luxury of ideology and of time, working New Yorkers do not have those luxuries, they have needs today and the obligations to their families to meet."
The letter represents an effort to salvage the bill after support for it fell apart when labor groups in recent days came out against the proposal. Broadly, lawmakers were considering a bill that would have extended workers for on-demand apps some bargaining power, but did not reclassify them as full employees.
It would have stopped short of full labor rights like those under a union, such as demonstrating or walking off a job. Instead, as The City reported, the proposal would have put a state labor panel in charge of setting the rules.
Major labor unions like SEIU 32BJ have said their organization cannot support the draft legislation.
"Our initial review of the draft legislation regarding app-based drivers and delivery workers raises serious concerns about how it would impact workers," said the union's president, Kyle Bragg. "We believe that legislation that addresses gig economy and other misclassified workers should at minimum maintain gains made by workers at the local level, retain existing state protections, and allow localities the power to establish improved standards."
Bragg added the bill should provide workers with a "real voice" in order to have their labor rights expanded.
"The proposal we have examined does not provide for those conditions and jeopardizes critical wins that workers have fought for over the years," he said. "What we have seen so far is not good for these workers in particular, or any working New Yorker.”
New York officials and lawmakers in recent years have had to grapple with how to oversee the burgeoning gig economy of workers who provide services often summoned by apps. Companies have hailed the work as providing flexible hours, but labor advocates have contended the new sector of the workforce provides for a new kind of worker exploitation.
The letter from clergy comes as state lawmakers are scheduled to conclude their legislative session on June 10, making the window for a deal a closing one.
The clergy pointed to the disruptions caused by the pandemic over the last year, and the work of gig workers who provided essential services with no safety net.
"Support economic justice by supporting this legislation," they wrote. "We believe that at the heart of economic progress is the right for workers to speak up, and speak out. Giving them this ability will open doors for the raises and benefits they deserve and so desperately need."