June 06, 2007

Spitzer pressing for increased leave benefits

Source: NYSUT News Wire

Union leaders are applauding a measure by Gov. Spitzer to make available family leave benefits, but some additional provisions need to be included, NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said.

Under the governor's proposal, workers caring for a newborn or a seriously ill family member would be allowed up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year. The leave would provide a maximum benefit of $170 per week.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows covered workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Current New York state law guarantees certain workers up to eight weeks of temporary disability benefits - with a maximum weekly benefit of $170. The governor's plan would make more caregivers eligible for benefits beyond maternity leave, families who adopt and those caring for an ill member of their immediate family, including domestic partners. The plan would provide for employees caring for a family member being treated in a hospital or receiving continuing treatment by a health care provider, including a physician, podiatrist, chiropractor, dentist or psychologist.

"While we applaud the governor's commitment to increasing benefits for workers in their time of need, we believe there needs to be an opt-in provision for locals," Iannuzzi said. Many unions already negotiate provisions for paid family leave.

"This could certainly offer another option for our members, but any final product must protect and maintain the collective bargaining process," Iannuzzi said.

Many workers cite financial obligations as a reason for not taking advantage of the unpaid leave. The measure is supported by the Democrat-controlled Assembly and has some Senate support. If it passes, New York would be the third state to offer a paid family leave benefit.