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New campaign for paid family leave in New York

Assemb. Michaelle Solages speaks in Hempstead while holding

Assemb. Michaelle Solages speaks in Hempstead while holding her son, Nicholas, as elected officials from across Long Island help launch "Long Islanders for Paid Family Leave" on Friday, March 4, 2016. The campaign urges the state to pass paid family leave this year. Credit: Steve Pfost

Democratic state, county, town and city lawmakers from Long Island joined Friday with labor leaders and progressive advocates to launch a campaign to lobby for passage this year of a state paid family leave law.

The officials held a rally at the Planned Parenthood of Nassau County offices in Hempstead to announce their “Long Islanders for Paid Family Leave” effort, which they said will engage local families through “a series of town halls and other events to build momentum for paid family leave across Long Island.”

“It should never be a choice between caring for a seriously ill loved one or risk financial hardship,” said Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck). “New York must do better.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pitched a plan earlier this year to give New Yorkers up to 12 weeks of leave at up-to two-thirds pay so they can care for newborns or sick relatives. Cuomo said the program could be funded through payroll deductions starting at 60 cents a week and ultimately rising to $1.

Democratic State Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference, favors a weekly payroll deduction of as little as 20 cents. Assembly Democrats want to pay for the benefit through the employer-backed state disability insurance fund.

Senate Republicans have said they are open to the idea of paid family leave, but object to burdening employers with the cost.

A spokesman for State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said Friday that the majority is reviewing several options for paid family leave, including programs in other states.

Organizers of Friday’s rally cited a Siena Research Institute poll in January in which 80 percent of respondents statewide backed the idea, including 77 percent of suburban voters and 69 percent of conservatives.

“Family leave should not be a privilege just for the wealthy,” said Nassau County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin).

Other lawmakers in attendance included several members of Long Island’s Assembly Democratic delegation: Todd Kaminsky, Charles Lavine, Michaelle Solages and Kimberly Jean-Pierre; Long Beach City Council members Anthony Eramo and Anissa Moore; and North Hempstead Town Board members Viviana Russell and Anna Kaplan.

The lawmakers were joined by leaders of the state Working Families party, the 1199 SEIU, SEIU 32BJ, CWA Local 1108 and Local 338 RWDSU unions, the Long Island Progressive Coalition and several other advocacy groups.

“This is an important step toward building a society in which people are supported in their family planning decisions and care taking responsibilities,” said Jason Starr, Long Island director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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