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Opinion: Bronx Working Families Win Significant Victories in State Government

October 7, 2010

Bronx Working Families Win Significant Victories in State Government

By ASSEMBLYWOMAN VANESSA L. GIBSON

In recent months, the working families of our community have won several major victories that will improve the quality of life for thousands of west Bronx residents and their families. Working with my colleagues in the state Legislature, I am proud to have played a key part in this. These historic wins mean that our domestic workers and minority-owned and women-owned businesses will finally have many of the opportunities they have deserved for so long.

One of those key victories was the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Under this new law, which I co-sponsored as Assembly Bill A. 1470-B, domestic workers will no longer be treated like second class citizens and they will finally be given important labor rights. Employers will now be required to pay domestic workers the state minimum wage, and these workers will be protected against discrimination and sexual harassment. Employers will also be required to give domestic workers at least one day off every week. This important legislation will take effect in the beginning of December.

Working with my fellow Democrats in the state Assembly majority, I am also pleased that we were able to enact several new laws that enhance opportunities for minority-owned and women-owned businesses. One of these new MWBE-related laws, Assembly Bill A. 11525, will expand the number of state contracts available and double the amount a state agency can purchase from an MWBE without being required to go out to bid. Another piece of legislation that became law, Assembly Bill A. 11526, will strengthen the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and eliminate many of the stumbling blocks that have blocked MWBEs from competing effectively for contracts with state authorities.

These new MWBE laws will open the opportunities for commerce in New York State for many Bronx-based businesses and encourage creation of the types of long term employment opportunities that the adults in our community need and deserve. It will also help level the playing field so that companies affected by discrimination will now have a more equitable opportunity to compete.

Along with these significant new laws, I have joined with my colleagues to support legislation which would raise the pay and improve the working conditions for west Bronx residents who work in the service industry. For years, many of those workers – including janitorial service workers, doormen, groundskeepers, gardeners and security service employees – have not been paid fairly and have not been covered by New York’s prevailing wage laws even though they perform jobs for public agencies and should be included under the protection of those laws. Unfortunately some companies have used contract agencies and other gimmicks to avoid paying service workers the wages they deserve. It is time to stop this practice and bring fairness to the workplace for these New Yorkers.

I have been a strong supporter of the legislation, Assembly Bill A. 10257-D, which addresses this issue and would provide the prevailing wage protections that our workers need. This important legislation passed the state Assembly on July 1st and I will continue advocating for this important reform.

These issues continue to be very important to our community and the families I represent in the state Assembly. I will remain a strong and vocal advocate for this and other legislation that will make a positive difference for the people living in the Concourse, Clarmont, Highbridge, Mount Eden and Morris Heights communities.

Assemblywoman Vanessa L. Gibson represents the 77th Assembly District which includes the communities of Concourse, Claremont, Highbridge, Mount Eden and Morris Heights. Her district office is located at 930 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York 10451 and can be reached at (718) 538-2000 or via email at gibsonv@assembly.state.ny.us.

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