May 27, 2020
With the state facing a $13 billion budget deficit, and some two million New Yorkers out of work, UUP joined a coalition of unions May 27 to send a straightforward message to legislators: We need action now on a millionaires’ tax for emergency revenue.
“We’re here today to inform our state lawmakers and the governor of the need for new state revenues to address the many job losses,” said Andy Pallotta, president of UUP’s statewide affiliate, NYSUT, as he opened a virtual news conference hosted May 27 by a group of 11 unions and the Fiscal Policy Institute. “The federal government has a role to play, but it’s the state’s responsibility to fund education. It’s time for millionaires in New York state to pay their fair share.”
A spotlight on inequity
UUP President Fred Kowal reiterated the need for new revenue streams, and he pointed out that the pandemic has highlighted existing inequities in health care, climate degradation and income. The state’s threat of 20 percent cuts in spending on health care, education and other services is the wrong response, Kowal said.
“The reality is that public servants across the board have given their lives to serve New York state,” Kowal said. “Never in the history of this country have we cut our way out of financial devastation. The time is now; history will judge us aggressively and harshly if we do not act.”
Unions have lost an unknown number of members due to COVID-19 deaths; the exact count is difficult to determine because some of the deaths occurred at home and were suspected, but not proven, to be from the coronavirus. The number of essential workers—many of them union members—who have been infected while performing their jobs may be in the hundreds. Countless other union members now face job losses due to the economic crash from the pandemic.
Several paths; one pressing need: Revenue
UUP has supported several bills before the state Legislature that would draw on new revenue streams, mostly by taxing the state’s ultra-rich residents, or part-time luxury homes known as “pied-a-terre” residences that are often used for only part of the year.
But, as Kowal pointed out during the news conference, UUP is still taking a two-pronged approach to revenue relief, by continuing to press Congress for passage of a new COVID relief bill, known as the “Heroes Act,” that cleared the House but is stalled in the Senate.
The unions represented at the news conference are a powerful force in state politics, representing more than 1.5 million members who work in every range of public- and private-sector jobs imaginable: education; health care; food service; the retail industry; technology; and law, the sciences and other professions in state agencies.
Click HERE to watch a video of the virtual news conference.