The end of last week/beginning of this week marked a good one for 32BJ and RWDSU.
Last week, right before recess, the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly passed the Hospital Equity and Affordability Law (or HEAL Act) that would keep health care affordable for low-income, marginalized New Yorkers.
Sponsored by New York State Sen. Andrew Gournades and State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (both Democrats), the HEAL Act “prohibits certain provisions in health plan contracts including most-favored-nation provisions and restrictions on disclosure of actual claim costs, prices or quality in certain situations.”
The bill would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. It awaits New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.
“New York’s private hospitals have gotten away with quietly raising their prices, escalating the cost of health care, and putting affordable, quality care out of reach for hardworking individuals, including the half a million working people represented by 32BJ and the Coalition for Affordable Hospitals,” said 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “Passing the Hospital Equity and Affordability Law (HEAL) is a significant step towards creating a more equitable healthcare system for all New Yorkers.”
Albany legislators looked to 32BJ as inspiration for the bill. The union’s Health Fund “offers prenatal and postnatal care and delivery at partner hospitals for as low as $40 total out-of-pocket costs.”
32BJ, and other unions, celebrated the passing of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, which is designed to make public the quotas that companies like Amazon use in the hopes of not interfering with “legally protected breaks.” New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos and State Assembly Member Latoya Joyner (both Democrats) sponsored the bill, and unions and community organizations were pleased with the legislation pushing through before recess.
“The warehousing industry is one of the most dangerous as well as one of the fastest growing in New York. Amazon alone opened an additional 30 facilities over the last 12 months, and we know that the serious injury rate at Amazon is 54% higher than the state’s entire warehousing industry,” stated Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum. “High injury rates and dangerous work quotas, especially at Amazon, simply need to be addressed and thankfully the Warehouse Worker Protection Act helps address this urgent problem.”
“For too long, Amazon has profited off the backs of workers, putting their health and safety at risk,” stated ALIGN Executive Director and New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition leader Maritza Silva-Farrell. “The Warehouse Worker Protection Act is a great first step to empower workers, and paves the way for New York to lead with labor in the face of corporate abuse.”
ALIGN is a group made up of small businesses, local community organizations and workers.
The new legislation requires that major warehouse companies show quotas and provide copies of said quotas to workers when they’re hired and/or when the law goes into effect for current workers. This is designed for workers’ rights for lunch, bathroom and work breaks. Ramos and Joyner worked with the coalition to create language for the bill and lobby in its favor in Albany. It also awaits the governor’s signature.
According to a study by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), injuries increased at New York’s Amazon warehouses by 64% during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that period, Amazon reinstated its quotas.
When the AmNews contacted Amazon numerous times over the course of the past several months, the company reminded us of what they sent before.
“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” said a spokesperson in April.
“Our focus remains on working directly with our team to make Amazon a great place to work,” said a spokesperson in February.