New York’s Constitution has excellent safeguards for labor that we need to protect.  We are pro-labor, but unfortunately, most labor unions are against the People’s Convention based on the fear that, given Brexit and what’s going on in Washington, a convention could open up our constitution to manipulation by the Koch brothers and their allies or the alt right.

Where we disagree with labor is that we believe there is no risk in New York State of labor unions losing their pension protections or other rights enshrined in our current constitution.

The best strategy for labor and the state itself is not to make decisions based on fear, but to aggressively develop new policies that support other concerns that their members have:

    • •Expanded Voting Rights
    • •Criminal Justice Reform
    • •A Right to a Healthful Environment
    • •Equality for All that protects women, the disabled, sexual orientation and identity

 

And many other issues that a People’s Convention will address.

We have a long history in the state of constitutional conventions — some that completely rewrote the constitution, some that simply added some new amendments, and some that the public voted down, but whose work still lead to progressive changes in the state years later.  In all that time, there’s never been a case of the state “going backwards” and becoming less progressive, less democratic, through a constitutional process, and it’s not going to happen now.

This view is echoed by one the foremost experts on the New York State Constitution and co-author of New York’s Broken Constitution, Christopher Bopst.  Recently, on being asked if a convention was a threat to labor rights, he replied:

Our history in New York has been that Constitutional conventions historically have not been in the business of taking things away…The Forever Wild provision, the Bill of Rights for organized labor, things that we point to in our State Constitution with pride, things that define us as a state, were added by constitutional conventions.  Conventions historically have not taken away rights or diminished things that the state holds dear…It isn’t consistent with the character, tradition and demographics of the state.

As , Dr. Peter Galie,  and another major constitutional expert, and Bopst have written, “On Nov. 7, we have an opportunity to continue to shape our destiny by looking beyond the Legislature for reform and calling the state’s 10th constitutional convention. We must not let fear replace the hope that has sustained a tradition that has made us the Empire State.”

Or as Governor Mario Cuomo once said quite pithily to The New York Times: “Why are people afraid of fundamental change? You don’t like three men in a room, or three women in a room? Then change it.”

It’s important we protect the many excellent safeguards for union members in our state constitution.  The following is a list of the specific sections applicable to unions: 

Public Employees

      • Diminishment of pensions prohibited Article 5, Sec. 7

Text of Section 7:

Membership in Retirement Systems; Benefits Not to Be Diminished nor Impaired

After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938.)

      • Local Governments authorized to increase pension for police and fire – Article 8, Sec. 1 
Text of Section 1:

Gift or Loan of Property or Credit of Local Subdivisions Prohibited; Exceptions for Enumerated Purposes

No county, city, town, village or school district shall give or loan any money or property to or in aid of any individual, or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, or become directly or indirectly the owner of stock in, or bonds of, any private corporation or association; nor shall any county, city, town, village or school district give or loan its credit to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, except that two or more such units may join together pursuant to law in providing any municipal facility, service, activity or undertaking which each of such units has the power to provide separately. Each such unit may be authorized by the legislature to contract joint or several indebtedness, pledge its or their faith and credit for the payment of such indebtedness for such joint undertaking and levy real estate or other authorized taxes or impose charges therefore subject to the provisions of this constitution otherwise restricting the power of such units to contract indebtedness or to levy taxes on real estate. The legislature shall have power to provide by law for the manner and the proportion in which indebtedness arising out of such joint undertakings shall be incurred by such units and shall have power to provide a method by which such indebtedness shall be determined, allocated and apportioned among such units and such indebtedness treated for purposes of exclusion from applicable constitutional limitations, provided that in no event shall more than the total amount of indebtedness incurred for such joint undertaking be included in ascertaining the power of all such participating units to incur indebtedness. Such law may provide that such determination, allocation and apportionment shall be conclusive if made or approved by the comptroller. This provision shall not prevent a county from contracting indebtedness for the purpose of advancing to a town or school district, pursuant to law, the amount of unpaid taxes returned to it.

Subject to the limitations on indebtedness and taxation applying to any county, city, town or village nothing in this constitution contained shall prevent a county, city or town from making such provision for the aid, care and support of the needy as may be authorized by law, nor prevent any such county, city or town from providing for the care, support, maintenance and secular education of inmates of orphan asylums, homes for dependent children or correctional institutions and of children placed in family homes by authorized agencies, whether under public or private control, or from providing health and welfare services for all children, nor shall anything in this constitution contained prevent a county, city, town or village from increasing the pension benefits payable to retired members of a police department or fire department or to widows, dependent children or dependent parents of members or retired members of a police department or fire department; or prevent the city of New York from increasing the pension benefits payable to widows, dependent children or dependent parents of members or retired members of the relief and pension fund of the department of street cleaning of the city of New York. Payments by counties, cities or towns to charitable, eleemosynary, correctional and reformatory institutions and agencies, wholly or partly under private control, for care, support and maintenance, may be authorized, but shall not be required, by the legislature. No such payments shall be made for any person cared for by any such institution or agency, nor for a child placed in a family home, who is not received and retained therein pursuant to rules established by the state board of social welfare or other state department having the power of inspection thereof.

(Formerly §10. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 3, 1959; November 5, 1963; November 2, 1965.)

 

      • Civil Service Protections – Article 5, Sec. 6
Text of Section 6:

Civil Service Appointments and Promotions; Veterans’ Credits

Appointments and promotions in the civil service of the state and all of the civil divisions thereof, including cities and villages, shall be made according to merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive; provided, however, that any member of the armed forces of the United States who served therein in time of war, and who, at the time of such member’s appointment or promotion, is a citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States and a resident of this state and is honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from such service, shall be entitled to receive five points additional credit in a competitive examination for original appointment and two and one-half points additional credit in an examination for promotion or, if such member was disabled in the actual performance of duty in any war, and his or her disability is certified by the United States department of veterans affairs to be in existence at the time of application for appointment or promotion, he or she shall be entitled to receive ten points additional credit in a competitive examination for original appointment and five points additional credit in an examination for promotion. Such additional credit shall be added to the final earned rating of such member after he or she has qualified in an examination and shall be granted only at the time of establishment of an eligible list. No such member shall receive the additional credit granted by this section after he or she has received one appointment, either original entrance or promotion, from an eligible list on which he or she was allowed the additional credit granted by this section, except where a member has been appointed or promoted from an eligible list on which he or she was allowed additional credit for military service and subsequent to such appointment he or she is disabled as provided in this section, such member shall be entitled to ten points additional credit less the number of points of additional credit allowed for the prior appointment.

Amendment

      • Ratified on November 5, 2013 via voter approval of Proposal 2.

(Formerly §6. Repealed and new section approved by vote of the people November 8, 1949; further amended by vote of the people November 3, 1964; November 3, 1987; November 4, 1997; November 6, 2001; November 4, 2008.)

All Workers, Private Sector

      • Workers’ Compensation & Worksite Safety – Article 1, Sec. 18
Text of Section 18:

Workers’ Compensation

Nothing contained in this constitution shall be construed to limit the power of the legislature to enact laws for the protection of the lives, health, or safety of employees; or for the payment, either by employers, or by employers and employees or otherwise, either directly or through a state or other system of insurance or otherwise, of compensation for injuries to employees or for death of employees resulting from such injuries without regard to fault as a cause thereof, except where the injury is occasioned by the wilful intention of the injured employee to bring about the injury or death of himself or herself or of another, or where the injury results solely from the intoxication of the injured employee while on duty; or for the adjustment, determination and settlement, with or without trial by jury, of issues which may arise under such legislation; or to provide that the right of such compensation, and the remedy therefore shall be exclusive of all other rights and remedies for injuries to employees or for death resulting from such injuries; or to provide that the amount of such compensation for death shall not exceed a fixed or determinable sum; provided that all moneys paid by an employer to his or her employees or their legal representatives, by reason of the enactment of any of the laws herein authorized, shall be held to be a proper charge in the cost of operating the business of the employer.

Amendments

      • Formerly §19. Renumbered by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people on November 8, 1938.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 6, 2001.

 

      • Includes Unemployment – Article 7, Sec. 8 
Text of Section 8:

Gift or Loan of State Credit or Money Prohibited; Exceptions for Enumerated Purposes

1. The money of the state shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking; nor shall the credit of the state be given or loaned to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, but the foregoing provisions shall not apply to any fund or property now held or which may hereafter be held by the state for educational, mental health or mental retardation purposes.

2. Subject to the limitations on indebtedness and taxation, nothing in this constitution contained shall prevent the legislature from providing for the aid, care and support of the needy directly or through subdivisions of the state; or for the protection by insurance or otherwise, against the hazards of unemployment, sickness and old age; or for the education and support of the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the physically handicapped, the mentally ill, the emotionally disturbed, the mentally retarded or juvenile delinquents as it may deem proper; or for health and welfare services for all children, either directly or through subdivisions of the state, including school districts; or for the aid, care and support of neglected and dependent children and of the needy sick, through agencies and institutions authorized by the state board of social welfare or other state department having the power of inspection thereof, by payments made on a per capita basis directly or through the subdivisions of the state; or for the increase in the amount of pensions of any member of a retirement system of the state, or of a subdivision of the state; or for an increase in the amount of pension benefits of any widow or widower of a retired member of a retirement system of the state or of a subdivision of the state to whom payable as beneficiary under an optional settlement in connection with the pension of such member. The enumeration of legislative powers in this paragraph shall not be taken to diminish any power of the legislature hitherto existing.

3. Nothing in this constitution contained shall prevent the legislature from authorizing the loan of the money of the state to a public corporation to be organized for the purpose of making loans to nonprofit corporations or for the purpose of guaranteeing loans made by banking organizations, as that term shall be defined by the legislature, to finance the construction of new industrial or manufacturing plants, the construction of new buildings to be used for research and development, the construction of other eligible business facilities, and for the purchase of machinery and equipment related to such new industrial or manufacturing plants, research and development buildings, and other eligible business facilities in this state or the acquisition, rehabilitation or improvement of former or existing industrial or manufacturing plants, buildings to be used for research and development, other eligible business facilities, and machinery and equipment in this state, including the acquisition of real property therefore, and the use of such money by such public corporation for such purposes, to improve employment opportunities in any area of the state, provided, however, that any such plants, buildings or facilities or machinery and equipment therefore shall not be (i) primarily used in making retail sales of goods or services to customers who personally visit such facilities to obtain such goods or services or (ii) used primarily as a hotel, apartment house or other place of business which furnishes dwelling space or accommodations to either residents or transients, and provided further that any loan by such public corporation shall not exceed sixty per centum of the cost of any such project and the repayment of which shall be secured by a mortgage thereon which shall not be a junior encumbrance thereon by more than fifty per centum of such cost or by a security interest if personalty, and that the amount of any guarantee of a loan made by a banking organization shall not exceed eighty per centum of the cost of any such project.

(Formerly §1. Derived in part from former §9 of Art. 8. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 6, 1951; November 7, 1961; November 8, 1966; November 6, 1973; November 8, 1977; November 5, 1985; November 6, 2001.)

 

      • Labor not a commodity (Right on public works to 7/40 hours day/week, Right to collective bargaining) == Article 1, Sec. 17
Text of Section 17:

Labor Not a Commodity; Hours and Wages in Public Work; Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce and shall never be so considered or construed.

No laborer, worker or mechanic, in the employ of a contractor or sub-contractor engaged in the performance of any public work, shall be permitted to work more than eight hours in any day or more than five days in any week, except in cases of extraordinary emergency; nor shall he or she be paid less than the rate of wages prevailing in the same trade or occupation in the locality within the state where such public work is to be situated, erected or used.

Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.

Amendments

      • Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people on November 8, 1938.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 6, 2001.

 

      • Authorization of Gambling (casinos, lottery, racing) – Article 1, Sec 9

 

Text of Section 9:

Right to Assemble and Petition; Divorce; Lotteries; Pool-Selling and Gambling; Laws to Prevent; Pari-Mutual Betting on Horse Races Permitted; Games of Chance, Bingo or Lotto Authorized under Certain Restrictions

1. No law shall be passed abridging the rights of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government, or any department thereof; nor shall any divorce be granted otherwise than by due judicial proceedings; except as hereinafter provided, no lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool- selling, book-making, or any other kind of gambling, except lotteries operated by the state and the sale of lottery tickets in connection therewith as may be authorized and prescribed by the legislature, the net proceeds of which shall be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education in this state as the legislature may prescribe, except pari-mutual betting on horse races as may be prescribed by the legislature and from which the state shall derive a reasonable revenue for the support of government, and except casino gambling at no more than seven facilities as authorized and prescribed by the legislature shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within this state; and the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section.

Amendments

      • Amended by vote of the people on November 7, 1939.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 5, 1957.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 8, 1966.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 4, 1975.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 6, 1984.
      • Amended by vote of the people on November 6, 2001.
      • Amended with the approval of [New York Casino Gambling Amendment, Proposal 1 (2013)|Proposal 1]] by vote of the people on November 5, 2013.

 

(You can tell from the language how they kept adding on to the original amendment to enable different forms of gambling over the years, even though the original language was to limit/prohibit gambling.)

 

Building Trades

      • Public Works & Prevailing Rate – Article 1, Sec 17
Text of Section 17:

Labor Not a Commodity; Hours and Wages in Public Work; Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce and shall never be so considered or construed.

No laborer, worker or mechanic, in the employ of a contractor or sub-contractor engaged in the performance of any public work, shall be permitted to work more than eight hours in any day or more than five days in any week, except in cases of extraordinary emergency; nor shall he or she be paid less than the rate of wages prevailing in the same trade or occupation in the locality within the state where such public work is to be situated, erected or used.

Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.

Amendments

    • Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people on November 8, 1938.
    • Amended by vote of the people on November 6, 2001.