Powerful union loses bid for wage benefit guarantee in budget

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As state budget negotiations closed, lawmakers rebuffed an effort by a powerful health care union in insert a salary boost for certain workers, a key lawmaker said Monday.

Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union – traditionally of New York’s biggest spending and most influential unions – had been lobbying lawmakers to include a passage in the state budget that would set a “standard wage” for nursing home employees.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly backed the standard-wage proposal. The politically-split Senate omitted the proposal from its version of the budget.

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In the end, the budget agreement reached Saturday didn’t include the 1199/SEIU proposal.

 “It’s just one of those things that didn’t make it,” Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said without further elaboration. Hannon, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, had been questioning implications of the wage boost.

The union said the provision is necessary to prevent employers from reducing workers’ pay as the state continues to move nursing home patients into managed-care health plans.

But critics saw it as a way for the union to boost its hand as it heads into contract negotiations this fall with some downstate health care systems and set the stage for unionizing some upstate nursing homes.

Rank-and-file legislators began voting on the $138 billion budget Monday morning.

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