On the heels of the passage of historic health care legislation in Congress, I am pleased to report that yesterday eleven of my colleagues and I announced the formation of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council. The Progressive Caucus will push for a more just, more equal city that offers genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers.
I am honored to be serving as co-chair of the Caucus, along with Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito (Manhattan/Bronx). Other members of the Caucus include Annabel Palma from the Bronx; Letitia James and Jumaane Williams from Brooklyn; Margaret Chin, Rosie Mendez, and Ydanis Rodriguez from Manhattan; Danny Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, and Jimmy Van Bramer from Queens; and Debi Rose from Staten Island.
Check out our OpEd at TheNation.com on why we are creating the Progressive Caucus here, and The New York Times article about the Caucus here. In our TheNation.com OpEd, we write:
The divide between Wall Street and the rest of New York predates the economic downturn. While the economy was booming … the Bloomberg administration's economic development policy focused on real estate development, subsidizing mega-deals to create luxury housing for the wealthiest and retail malls with mostly low-wage jobs.
Today, as we struggle with continued foreclosures, an anemic economy and the large deficits facing the city and state, we hear constant calls for fiscal austerity--to balance the budget on the backs of those most in need, slashing child care and senior centers, laying off teachers and pushing families into homelessness by eliminating subsidies.
We disagree. We believe that New Yorkers want a more just, more equal city. We believe that as we work our way out of this crisis, New York City can and must plan a recovery that looks to narrow the growing economic divide.
The Progressive Caucus is already getting right to work, focusing on several key issues facing the city, including:
Pushing for passage of the Paid Sick Days Bill: This legislation, which is being introduced in the City Council today, would cover the more than 1 million working New Yorkers who don't currently receive a single paid sick day from their employers. Right now, too many working families are forced to choose between their health and their livelihood - a choice no one should have to make. It also puts the public's health at risk when restaurant and service workers are forced to come to work when they are sick.
We need standards that reflect the realities of working families in New York, and this bill offers a modest solution: it would grant at least 5 annual paid days off to all employees (9 for larger businesses), when either they or a family members is sick. And whether someone works at a restaurant, retail store, day care center or office, they would be able to earn and use these days when necessary, so they won't be penalized on the rare occasions they need to stay home to get healthy.
Addressing the Section 8 Voucher Crisis: Late last year, as the result of the Bloomberg Administration issuing more Section 8 housing vouchers than they had resources for, thousands of families were told that their new vouchers had been revoked. Many of these formerly homeless families had already begun the process of moving to new homes, and suddenly found themselves at risk of homelessness again. In addition, the New York City Housing Authority has recently indicated that the crisis could grow, potentially placing thousands of families at risk.
The Progressive Caucus is taking a stand for these families - working with affordable housing groups, legal services lawyers, and Speaker Christine Quinn - to develop creative solutions and insist that the City step up to address the looming crisis.
These are just a couple of the issues that the Progressive Caucus plans to start working on. We'll also be grappling with how to address the large budget deficits facing city and state - without balancing the budget on the backs of those most in need - and making sure that our economic development policy is focused on creating quality jobs for those who need them most.
Our goal over the next several years is to take a stand to combat inequality head-on, building on what other cities have done, to help create a new economy that offers good jobs, thriving communities, and a healthy environment for all. And we'll do it by involving New Yorkers across lines of race, class, and neighborhood in conversation and action about the direction of our city.
We hope you'll join us.