Elected Officials to Launch Long Islanders for Paid Family Leave

The Long Island Exchange’s article Elected Officials to Launch “Long Islanders for Paid Family Leave”

State, county, and local elected officials to release letters urging Albany to pass paid family leave this session

(Long Island, NY) On Friday, March 4th, elected officials from all levels of government from across Long Island will come to Hempstead to help launch “Long Islanders for Paid Family Leave,” a campaign to urge the state to pass paid family leave this year.

With 6.3 million New Yorkers lacking access to paid leave, these officials will urge Albany to stand with Long Island families and pass landmark paid family leave legislation this year so that no New Yorker has to choose between paying their bills and caring for a newborn child or a loved one.

The event will be hosted at Planned Parenthood of Nassau County (located at 540 Fulton Avenue, Hempstead, NY), an organization that has long fought for women’s health issues, including paid family leave.

Co-sponsoring organizations include: NY Working Families, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, 1108CWA, 1199SEIU, 32BJSEIU, 338 RWDSU/UFCW, Long Island Progressive Coalition, National Institute for Reproductive Health, New York Civil Liberties Union, and New York Communities for Change.

Click here to read the full article.

A Winning Formula for LI Democrats

Published by Newsday. Written by Lisa Tyson.
November 23, 2015

It’s going to take a lot more than a stitch in time to save the “Long Island Nine” in the 2016 elections. If the Democratic challengers to these nine Republican state senators who represent the Island follow these three rules, they’ll have a real shot at winning seats and taking back the State Senate majority from Republicans.

First, Democrats need to make Republican corruption central to their campaign themes and commit to fixing the state’s electoral system by promising to support publicly funded elections. This month’s elections for Nassau County district attorney and Oyster Bay supervisor proved voters will stand up against a system that’s based on elected officials being impacted by campaign contributors.

Democrat Madeline Singas’ victory over well-known Republican Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray for Nassau district attorney, and the very slim victory, despite recent scandals in his administration, of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto over Democrat John Mangelli are textbook examples of how to run against a corrupt political system and beat the odds.

Next year, Venditto’s son, state Sen. Michael Venditto, is up for re-election with a last name that’s linked to scandal. Will the younger Venditto stand up for real reform, including publicly funded elections, that will stop Albany’s culture of corruption? He hasn’t yet.

Second, challengers need to stand up for the issues that can truly improve voters’ lives, like increasing the minimum wage and making college tuition affordable. After all, it’s the big money interests who fight these policies by heavily contributing to lawmakers.

When it comes to having elected officials who are responsive to the needs of most New Yorkers, state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) embodies all that’s wrong with Albany. What’s worse than his alleged crimes to enrich himself and his son is the legal bribery that happens every day at the Capitol. When Skelos was head of the Senate Republicans, he set the agenda — an agenda that put corporate profits before the needs of ordinary New Yorkers. His pro-fracking, anti-living wage, and even pro-gun positions trace to corporate interests.

Third, candidates need to make sure voters look down the ballot by connecting the major presidential campaign issues like income inequality to state issues like raising the minimum wage. In 2012, President Barack Obama won seven of nine State Senate districts on Long Island. Democrats also have an enrollment advantage in seven of the nine Long Island districts.

In the last presidential election, Obama won the 7th District with 54 percent of the vote. That same year, incumbent Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) won only 52 percent. Democrats will turn out next year because their voting numbers rise in presidential elections. Democratic candidates for State Senate need to get those votes by having meaningful conversations with voters.

The Democratic enrollment advantage on Long Island and across New York gets stronger every year. So far, Senate Republicans have been able to cling to power by scaring voters — saying votes for Democrats will give control of the state to New York City; taking campaign money from big real estate moguls and hedge fund managers; and buying off a few Democrats by giving power to a small group that caucuses with the Republicans.

Next year can be one of change. It can be a historic moment when Democrats vote against corruption — legal and illegal — by demanding their issues come first and that their elected officials are accountable to them.

Lisa Tyson is director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island: Should There Be Limits On Speech?

“Free Speech: Should There be Limits?” is the topic of a panel discussion to be held at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island on Sunday, June 21 at 11 am. The Ethical Society is located at 38 Old Country Road in Garden City (at the western end of Old Country Road, between Mineola Boulevard and Herricks Road).

Read the full article here

Garden City News Online: “Ethical Humanist Society to Present Social Justice Leadership Awards”

The Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island is honoring three Long Islanders for their commitment to the betterment of the world-activist David Sprintzen, journalist Bob Keeler and legislator Michelle Schimel.

On Thursday, May 14, the three will receive the Ethical Society’s Social Justice Leadership Award at a dinner to be held at the Nassau County Bar Association, 15th and West Streets, Mineola at 6 pm.

Read the full article here

Protesters Give Martins Roadblock Award

 

“More than two dozen protesters from three progressive advocacy groups gathered at the Mineola office of State Sen. Jack Martins Wednesday afternoon to present him with Roadblock Awards for blocking several pieces of Democratic legislation.

The protesters, members of Make the Road Action Fund, the New York Communities for Change and the Long Island Progressive Coalition, were confronted by Martins campaign adviser E. O’Brien Murray, where a heated argument reportedly ensued.”

 

Click  here  to read more of this article

Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

Worker Co-ops on The Rise in New York

by Spencer Rumsey on September 1, 2014
Peerless Electronics in Bethpage is owned by its employees.

Peerless Electronics in Bethpage is owned by its employees.

This Labor Day most Americans will be taking a break from their bosses, but a small group of employees will be celebrating the fact that they are their own bosses because they belong to workers cooperatives.

It’s a democratic working arrangement that seems to be gaining more attention since Occupy Wall Street, although the concept actually goes back to the dawn of the labor movement. The idea made news in June when the New York City Council made the largest pledge of government support for worker cooperative business development in U.S. history by making a $1.2-million investment in such initiatives.

“Obviously, cooperatives didn’t just come out of Occupy Wall Street,” said Brendan Martin, founding director of The Working World, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization that provides investment capital and technical support for worker cooperatives. “But it did help focus people’s energy and attention on alternatives… The whole movement was about questioning aspects of our economic system and who owns what. One of the key problems is how few own so much!”

One lively offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street was the creation of OccuCopy, a workers cooperative in Brooklyn, which started with a small group camped out in Zucotti Park who had discovered they had similar interests. Now it’s renamed Radix Media, a “full-service commercial print shot” with three members. It’s also a union shop—part of the Teamsters Local 1, the Amalgamated Lithographers of America. Their big project right now is helping the People’s Climate March produce material to publicize its nationwide event Sept. 21.

“We do a ton of stuff,” explained Lantz Arroyo, who was born in Rockville Centre and lived in Hempstead until he was four. But he got interested in workers cooperatives while he was living in Portland, Ore., before moving to New York City and joining up with his co-workers last summer. He loves the working arrangement.

“We’re not working for someone else and getting paid low wages while someone at the top is making more,” he told the Press. “We do find ourselves working on our days off and having meetings on our days off, but I think it’s definitely more fulfilling. It’s a great model for people who want to have a livelihood but don’t want to just make someone else rich while they’re struggling every day.”

WORKERS UNITE

All told, there are 29,284 cooperatives in the United States, excluding housing co-ops, but only 223 are directly worker-owned, according to John Duda, communications coordinator of the Democracy Collaborative, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, which promotes this worker-owned business model.

The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), a national organization established in 2004, estimates that there are 300-400 worker-owned co-ops and “democratic workplaces” in the United States, employing 2,500-3,500 workers. A 2012 study by the Democracy At Work Institute, a USFWC affiliate, found that 71 percent of worker co-ops have fewer than 15 members. The largest worker co-op in the country happens to be the Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, which has 1,100 “worker-owners” out of it 2,300 employees, according to the USFWC.

“Cooperatives are a bigger part of the economy than most people realize,” Duda told the Press. “You’re talking about organizations that are democratically owned and controlled by their members. Those can be purchasing cooperatives, banking cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives, housing cooperatives, or worker cooperatives.”

Add in credit unions and employee-owned companies, and “about 130 million people in the U.S. are in cooperatives,” said Duda. “There’s 6 million more people in employee-owned companies in the United States than there are in labor unions in the private sector.”

Here on Long Island, the Bethpage-based Peerless Electronics became an employee-owned company as of May 30, 2012, when the Employees Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) acquired 100 percent of the company from the estate of the late owner, Alvin M. Shankman, who had owned the firm privately since 1945. In a press release, Robert Levine, president and chief financial officer, wrote: “In today’s economic and business environment, it is especially important to note that we have secured the employee positions, maintained jobs on Long Island and will continue to be a strong business partner with our customers and suppliers.”

Peerless preserved its hierarchical structure, but the transition also kept the company alive. Duda says that creating worker cooperatives generally offers a better approach to economic development than typical government policy.

“You don’t give a corporate tax subsidy to somebody and hope they’ll create some jobs that will pay a living wage,” said Duda. “You give it to people who are running a democratically owned business. They tend not to vote to dissolve themselves or ‘offshore’ themselves.”
Subsidizing corporations, Duda said, “didn’t actually deliver the goods. We have greater inequality today than we did a couple of decades ago.”

Duda said that the New York City Council’s $1.2 million budget initiative to fund worker cooperative development targeted at low-income communities was a great step forward.

“Folks without assets don’t have the equity to start a business, so how do you get them those assets in a way that doesn’t exploit them?” Duda said. “Our organization focuses on how do we get worker cooperatives the business that they need? How do you build a larger framework for local policy that says: ‘Ok, we’ve got hospitals and universities; they spend billions of dollars a year, but they spend it outside the communities that they’re a part of.”

MEET THE NEW BOSS

The co-op concept is certainly getting wider attention, here and elsewhere.

“Our board had a huge discussion about cooperatives” last year, said Long Island Progressive Coalition Director Lisa Tyson. “They’re awesome!”

Her group is not-for-profit, so the business model doesn’t apply, but she thinks more people should consider it.

“When businesses are threatened, it’s a great way to keep the business alive and have the workers take on a different role,” she said.

Tyson said her group didn’t know of any functioning worker co-ops on Long Island. Attempts by the Press to find them in Nassau and Suffolk also came up empty.

Out in the Rockaways, it’s a different story, where two workers cooperatives are thriving—with more on the way.

“I think we’re planting the seeds for what could be a big change,” said Scott Trumbull, project officer for the Working World. He’s been involved in helping set up La Mies Bakery, which has four employees, and Roca Mia Construction, which has five. In the planning stages are a landscaping cooperative and a taxi service.

Of course, raising capital is the biggest hurdle for any business, let alone a cooperative. Thanks to the New York City Council’s recent $1.2 million pledge, the Working World got a $230,000 grant, which will have a direct impact on future cooperative development in Far Rockaway, Trumbull said. What differentiates their investment strategy from a typical start-up loan is that “we assume the risk,” he explained.

“We only recover our money from the profits the co-op generates,” he said. That’s why they are very rigorous with the co-ops they commit to helping.

“One of the most important things in co-ops is to have a really strong set of rules to guide the cooperative,” said Trumbull. “When someone is doing something that is not right, you can say, ‘Hey, this is not in compliance with the rules that we ALL agreed upon.’…It’s a big switch from being accountable to the boss to being accountable to the whole group.”

So what does a worker co-op do on Labor Day?

“We respect it!” said Trumbull with a laugh. “We will not be working!”

Read more: Long Island Press