Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Peter Abbate
Chairman, Assembly Governmental Employees Committee
City & State: What was the biggest or most important labor-related bill passed last session?
Peter Abbate: One of the most important bills to pass through the Governmental Employees Committee was the Veterans Equality Act, which provides credit to members of public retirement systems of the state for military service rendered during certain periods of peacetime and several combat operations. All veterans should get the opportunity to buy back their service time and I am hopeful the governor will sign the bill into law this year.
C&S: Was there any labor-related legislation that didn’t get done that you wish had?
PA: One of my top priorities this past year was the three-quarters disability bill (A6046/S4269). Currently, our newest uniformed forces, including police and fire officers, only receive $27 a day in disability pay when they are injured on the job, a figure that is not appropriate for their sacrifice. This bill would have restored their three-quarters disability to the level that older officers receive. I was very disappointed in the mayor and especially the City Council for not passing a home rule for this legislation that had bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate.
C&S: What is your reaction to the proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers? Some say it should be expanded to all state workers. Do you agree?
PA: I think the $15 minimum wage for fast food workers is a step in the right direction but the minimum wage across the state needs to be increased.
C&S: Should minimum wages vary between upstate and downstate?
PA: This past session the Assembly passed legislation that would have brought the state minimum wage up to $12.60 an hour and $15 an hour for downstate. I’m sure there will be more discussions on this issue next session with the new wage board recommendations, but the result must ensure that the minimum wage is adequate and equitable to all workers across the state.