It’s rare that labor and industry interests align, but in the hazy, hectic days of the end of the state legislative session, anything can happen.
State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo introduced a bill on Friday that would allow gig economy workers and other independent contractors to unionize and collectively bargain with their employers. While tech companies predictably objected, the legislation has also managed to draw criticism from several labor groups, including SEIU 32BJ and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents taxi, livery and app-based drivers.
Here’s what each side is saying about how the bill comes up short.
What would the legislation do?
The Dependent Worker Act from Savino and Crespo would create a new classification of worker – a “dependent worker” – to include gig economy workers and extend to this classification the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The bill defines “dependent worker” as anyone who provides personal services to a consumer through a private third party. That third party includes digital app platforms like Uber and Postmates, as well as any others that establish how much a worker is to be paid for their services or how much a consumer is charged, or which collects payment from the consumer or pays the worker.
Additionally, the bill extends to this new category of workers protections including prohibition of wage theft and recordkeeping requirements, and the state Department of Labor would have the authority to enforce those rules. The bill also requires that the commissioner of labor hold public meetings with representatives of businesses, employees and dependent workers on the feasibility of extending additional benefits to dependent workers, and report findings and recommendations for further action to the governor and state legislative leaders.
Who backs the bill?
The primary labor group backing the bill is the New York State AFL-CIO, which has called attention to the lack of protections afforded to those employed by digital app platforms. “The bill would allow app workers that do not meet current legal definitions of employment the right to form a union,” Mario Cilento, president of the union, said in an emailed statement. “It also provides important wage payment protections and provides the Department of Labor with regulatory authority for enforcement purposes. Of course, we would prefer to provide these workers with the full suite of employment protections. However, this bill can be passed this session and we can get these workers some protections now.”
Representatives for Savino and Crespo, the legislation’s sponsors, did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. But Savino, chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Internet and Technology, has raised the issue of the gig economy as a priority in the past. “I’ve been speaking for the past several years about the need for labor laws to be dragged into the 21st century, particularly for a sector that’s commonly referred to as the gig economy,” she told City & State back in January. “I’m going to focus on how to get a handle on this in terms of legislation and policy to protect workers and provide a clear set of rules for employers.”
Why are some labor groups upset?
In an opinion piece published in the Daily News on Tuesday, Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, and Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called out the state AFL-CIO for supporting the bill, which they say “cherry picks” the labor laws that should apply to gig workers. “The bill basically says that the only employee-like benefit that the gig workers would be protected under is collective bargaining. But it’s collective bargaining without protections on minimum wage, overtime, workers compensation, paid time off, even protection against unlawful deduction,” Desai told City & State. “The bill is actually not strong on protecting against wage theft.”
Desai argues that giving workers the right to collectively bargain doesn’t mean much if they’re not also guaranteed other protections like minimum wage. That, she said, puts the burden on workers to bargain from a weak starting point. “Collective bargaining happens in the context where workers already have other labor law protections,” she said. “To isolate collective bargaining from other labor law protections leaves the workers bargaining from zero.”
Desai and Figueroa advocate for something more akin to legislation that has passed the California state Assembly and is making its way through that state’s Senate. That bill would codify a ruling in California’s Supreme Court establishing an “ABC” test for determining whether a company can classify a worker as an independent contractor. In order to classify a worker as such under that test, the company has to prove that the individual is free from control of the employer, doing work outside the usual course of business of the employer and engaged in an independently established business.
Desai says the legislation on the table in Albany undermines much of the work she and other organizers have done on behalf of gig workers. “I think most importantly, it misses a massive opportunity,” she said of the push to pass this bill by the end of the session. “Through gut-wrenching organizing, we’ve built up momentum to really lift up the veil, to really expose the gig economy as nothing but a business model that leaves workers in poverty, in insecurity. And so we have momentum finally. And how could one of the most progressive states in the country use that momentum to lock workers out, rather than advancing rights?”
What doesn’t the tech industry like about it?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those representing tech interests argue that this new worker classification would upend the industry in an 11th-hour move that doesn’t even give companies a seat at the table. “As with most things, this is a complicated problem, and there are no easy answers,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of the industry group Tech:NYC. “But if you don’t have all sides at the table trying to work that out, you’re going to end up with a solution that is unworkable for one side.”
That doesn’t mean that tech is completely opposed to changes in the gig economy, Samuels said. “Our very old model of independent contractor versus full-time employee is not fit for the way people actually work,” she said. “What we really need is a new framework that makes sense for workers, that makes sense for companies, that makes sense for our society. And a lot of these companies are absolutely on the record wanting to do more for the workers who find work on their platforms, but because of the way the law is currently structured, they’ve found their hands tied.”
Tech:NYC has advocated for alternatives in the past, Samuels said, including an effort in New York to introduce a portable benefits system for independent contractors that would provide a safety net without turning them into full-time employees.
Where do industry and labor’s objections align?
While representatives for tech companies and their workers take issue with different aspects of the legislation, they agree on one thing: This bill was hastily introduced. “This was clearly done at the last minute on purpose,” Samuels said, noting that since it was introduced at the end of session, there is no time for public hearings or conversations between multiple stakeholders. “It’s a sloppy bill. The companies weren’t even part of the conversation, so you’ve got something that was completely one-sided, and the idea that you would take that kind of process – or total lack of process – and push through such a big law at the last minute like that is quite frankly really troubling.”
Desai agreed on the latter point. “There was no process,” she said. “You would think that if the bill was so groundbreaking for workers, that workers would have been the ones to storm the Capitol in support of it. It’s just a sham. You don’t fight for workers’ rights in the darkness of the night, you do it in daylight with pride.”
Israel election: Exit polls show race too close to call
Vote counting is under way in Israel after millions took part in an election widely seen as a referendum on the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in July, is seeking a record fifth term in office. He is competing against his toughest challenger in years, former army chief Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party.
According to the first round of exit polls, which are unofficial and can be unreliable, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition bloc have failed to secure the 61-seat majority they needed.
Two exit polls put Gantz’s party in a narrow lead. A Channel 12 exit poll said it would win 34 seats, with Netanyahu’s Likud one seat behind. The poll had Arab Joint List – an alliance of four Palestinian parties – winning 11 seats with eight for former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu.
Meanwhile, an exit poll on Channel 13 put Likud at 31 seats, trailing Gantz’s party by two seats.
Official preliminary results will be announced on Wednesday, with final results due on September 25.
Speaking to cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early on Wednesday, Gantz said it was necessary to wait for the official results, but was clearly confident.
“Netanyahu has not been successful in what he set out to do,” he told the crowd. “We, on the other hand, proved that the idea called Blue and White – a venture we started a little over six months ago – was successful.”
Speaking shortly afterwards, Netanyahu took the stage at Likud’s party headquarters in Tel Aviv.
He told his supporters that coalition talks had already begun.
“Israel is entitled to a strong government, a stable government, a government that ensures Israel is the nation of the Jewish people, and that it cannot, will not, be a government which is formed of parties which hate the nation,” he said, apologising for a croaky voice and sipping on water.
Majdi Halabi, an analyst and expert on Israeli affairs, said the initial unofficial results were a “slap in the face” for the prime minister.
Some 31 parties were competing for the 120 seats in the country’s 22nd Knesset.
Although many observers expected election fatigue to set in as voters headed to the polls for the second time in less than six months, early turnout was the highest in decades and long queues formed during the afternoon on Tuesday outside polling stations in the capital Tel Aviv.
The more than 11,000 polling stations across the country closed at 10pm (19:00 GMT).
Israel’s election commission says the final turnout was 69.4 percent, compared with 68.5 percent in April, with a total of 4,440,141 votes cast.
Netanyahu rallied his supporters throughout the day, using various social media platforms, phone messages, and direct engagement with voters on the streets of several major cities.
“We are fighting to the last minute. Every vote is important. Get out and vote for Likud. Bring everyone you can to the ballot box,” Netanyahu told his followers via Twitter in the final hour before voting closed.
Netanyahu is also facing a pretrial hearing in connection with three separate corruption cases – bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Israeli police said they had detained or arrested 20 people for various offences, including one man in the Negev Region who allegedly tried to disrupt voting at a polling station.
Netanyahu vs Gantz
Coalition governments are the norm in Israel as no single party has won a majority of seats in the Knesset and the negotiations ahead are likely to be difficult.
Lieberman has said he would not join an alliance that included ultra-Orthodox parties – Netanyahu’s traditional partners.
Gantz has ruled out participating in an administration with Netanyahu if the veteran politician is indicted on the corruption charges.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will decide who will be given the mandate to form a new government – usually the leader of the party that wins the most seats.
If Rivlin thinks this person is unlikely to garner enough support from smaller parties to control at least 61 seats in the Knesset, he may give the task to someone else.
“If Netanyahu doesn’t clear the 61-seat threshold, Rivlin may still give him the mandate to form a government,” Eli Nissan, an Israeli political analyst told Al Jazeera.
“But if he fails to form a government within the next few weeks – like what happened after the April vote – the President may give Gantz the opportunity to do that instead,” he added. “If he fails as well, the president may push for a unity government.”
Israel has not had a unity government since Netanyahu came to power in 2009.
According to experts, voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel was expected to be higher than the April vote which saw only 49.2 percent of eligible voters among Palestinians cast their ballot.
“There was a higher voter turnout among Palestinian citizens this time, most of whom voted for the Arab Joint List,” said Haifa-based analyst Diana Buttu.
“We also saw a large number of Jewish voters support the Joint List,” she added referring to the alliance which had split into two competing groups in April but regrouped again in advance of this election.
Oudeh Bisharat, a Nazareth-based political analyst, agreed.
“Palestinian voters went out in bigger numbers this time because the Arab Joint List was united again and because they wanted to challenge Netanyahu’s racism and incitement against them,” Bisharat told Al Jazeera.
This is what Edward Snowden says it will take for him to return to the U.S.
Edward Snowden says he’d like to return to the U.S. — on one condition.
That’s what the former National Security Agency contractor told CBS News in an interview that aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.” Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since leaking classified information about the government’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens in 2013.
“I would like to return to the United States,” Snowden told CBS. “That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense.”
That type of defense would allow a jury to consider Snowden’s motivations, which he says the government opposes.
“It’s not hard to make the argument that I broke the law,” he admitted to CBS, but said the government has not shown how his leaks caused harm. “They never show evidence for it even though we’re now more than six years on, it would be the easiest thing in the world to show.”
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA was considering shutting down the once-secret surveillance program that he exposed because it lacks operational value.
In a separate interview aired Monday on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams, Snowden said he was trying to “reform,” not destroy, the NSA.
Snowden, now a privacy advocate, added that he was alarmed by how governments and companies can now access vast amounts of personal data through digital devices such as cell phones.
“Anything you can do on that device, the attacker — in this case, the government — can do,” Snowden told MSNBC. “They can read your e-mail, they can collect every document, they can look at your contact book, they can turn the location services on.”
“They can see anything that is on that phone instantly,” he said, “and send it back home to the mothership.”
Not coincidentally, Snowden has a new memoir, “Permanent Record,” coming out Tuesday.
Opinion: President Trump Claims He Was At Ground Zero On Sept. 11. But Was He?
News organizations now refer to President Trump’s whoppers — from the size of his inaugural crowds to a hurricane threatening Alabama — as routinely as referring to rain in Seattle.
But, there was still some surprise this week when at services to mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the president insisted, “Soon after, I went down to Ground Zero with men who worked for me to try to help in any little way that we could … We were not alone. So many others were scattered around trying to do the same. They were all trying to help.”
Richard Alles, battalion chief of the New York Fire Department at the time of the attacks, spent several months in the smoking, choking ruins at ground zero. He told PolitiFact this summer, “I was there for several months — I have no knowledge of his being down there.” He added that there would be a record of Donald Trump sending a hundred or more workers to aid in the harrowing recovery efforts at Ground Zero; there is not.
We might remember that 18 years ago, the wreckage and rubble at Ground Zero was considered sacred ground. It held the remains of thousands of loved ones, including police and firefighters who perished as they tried to save lives. It was a place for rescue and recovery workers — not amateurs, gawkers or celebrities.
Producer Peter Breslow and I were in Lower Manhattan in the days following Sept. 11, when a haze of pulverized steel, glass and death hung in the air, and scores of photos of mothers, fathers and lost loved ones were taped on buildings and lampposts asking, “Have you seen … ?”
But we couldn’t go past the security perimeter outside ground zero. My wife and I would stand outside that perimeter along Canal Street at night where thousands of people stood to cry, pray and cheer for the workers in hard hats, heading in to do the hard, heavy, hazardous work there.
There is a phrase for the offense committed by impostors who wear phony medals and try to pose as combat veterans: stolen valor.
At a Republican debate in 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz decried what he called “New York values.” And Donald Trump replied: “New York is a great place, it’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people. When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York.”
It was all he needed to say: then and this week.
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