Hawkins, Mattera call for Economic Bill of Rights on Labor Day
The Green Party of New York gubernatorial ticket is marking Labor Day with a call for an Economic Bill of Rights that includes a $20 minimum wage, a guaranteed income above poverty, state-level Medicare-for-All, affordable housing and child care, tuition-free public college, stronger union organizing rights, and a “just transition” for workers and communities displaced in the transition to 100% clean energy.
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor and a retired Teamster, said that as Governor he would use his authority under New York Labor Law to issue a “wage order” to rapidly phase up the state minimum wage to $20 an hour. The current state minimum wage is $15 in the New York City metropolitan area and $13.20 upstate north of Westchester County.
“People who work should not live in poverty. $20 should be just the start,” Hawkins said.
A study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that a New York worker needs $38 an hour to rent an average two-bedroom unit at the federal affordability standard of 30% of their total income. $20 an hour would still require two full-time workers for that modest home.
Hawkins also called for a guaranteed minimum income to end poverty. It would be built into the state income tax structure as a negative income tax. People whose income is below the poverty line would get monthly checks to bring them above the poverty line.
Poverty rates in upstate cities are among the nation’s highest. Syracuse ranks first in both child and family poverty, Rochester is second in child poverty and third in family poverty, and Buffalo is sixth in both child and family poverty.
“It is time to finally answer the demands of Martin Luther King and the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 for a guaranteed income to end poverty,” Hawkins said.
In his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1968), King wrote, “I’m now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income….The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”
“Only the Green Party ticket is calling for enactment of the New York Health Act to provide health care for all,” said Gloria Mattera, the Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor who works with poor immigrant children and families in the public hospital system in New York City as a member of the Organization of Staff Analysts.
Despite having a majority of Democratic members of the Assembly and state Senate signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, the Democratic leadership has refused to bring it to a vote since the Democrats gained control of the Senate in the 2018 election.
“Health care should be a right. We want a system that provides all medically necessary services to all New York residents and is funded by progressive taxes with no premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket costs at the point of service,” Mattera said.
Studies of the costs of the New York Health Act find that it will reduce overall health care spending by replacing the marketing, bureaucracy, and profits of insurance companies with a single publicly-accountable plan and by negotiating fair prices with drug companies. Over 90% of New Yorkers will pay less in taxes for this public system than they do now for private insurance and taxes for public health care programs.
Mattera said the Economic Bill of Rights also includes the right to affordable housing and child care. The Green campaign supports Good Cause Eviction legislation and calls for a state program to expand public housing units until every New Yorker has an affordable housing option.
The Greens would enact universal free public child care through state funding of child care centers in public schools, public housing, and other relevant agencies and organizations, with living wages for child care providers that are at parity with those of public school teachers, and with an option for parents who wish to care for their children at home to opt out and receive a home child care allowance equal to the per-child wages of child care workers. They would also extend free public education to public colleges, universities, and trade schools.
Mattera said a Hawkins/Mattera administration would enact a comprehensive set of labor law reforms. It would expand the right of workers to organize into unions by enacting majority card-check recognition. It would strengthen job security by replacing the at-will employment with just-cause protections. She said the campaign supports the right of public workers to strike while maintaining the Triborough Amendment, which extends existing contracts when they end until there is a new contract agreement. The campaign supports the SWEAT (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) bill to help workers combat wage theft that Governor Cuomo vetoed in 2020 and repealing the “24-hour rule” that allows home health aides to be paid for only 13 hours in a 24-hour shift. It also supports including farm workers in the state’s 40-hour threshold for overtime pay.
A Hawkins/Mattera administration would also work with unions and communities to develop a Just Transition program for workers and communities adversely impacted by the transition to 100% clean energy. It would guarantee five years of a worker’s current salary and benefits and priority job placement for any displaced worker, as well as a decent pension for those who choose it or can no longer work. It would also provide revenues to communities to compensate for tax revenues lost due to power plants and factories closed in the clean energy transition.
“Some unions have been reluctant to support clean energy programs because some of their members may lose jobs in the fossil fuel and nuclear industries. We have to work with the unions to enact a rock solid Just Transition program that assures workers will be economically secure in the transition and find good jobs in the new clean energy economy. A Just Transition program is a prerequisite to enacting strong climate action programs,” Hawkins said.
The Green Party campaign said that Labor Day should remind us that workers need their own independent labor-based party. “Our campaign is as much about organizing a party of working people as advocating for pro-labor policies because we need power as much as we need good ideas. The corporate interests have two parties. We need one of our own,” Mattera said.