With businesses struggling after the pandemic and a looming recession, a socialist Democratic lawmaker in New York is proposing a law that would make it more difficult for all city employers to fire workers, The Post has learned.
Democratic Socialists of America-backed Queens Councilwoman Tiffany Caban — in concert with city Comptroller Brad Lander — is pushing to dramatically expand the “Just Cause” law that bars fast food companies from firing or laying off workers or reduce their hours by more than 15 percent “without just cause or a legitimate economic reason.”
A draft of the bill circulated by Caban would expand the law “to cover all employees and employers within the city regardless of size or pay.”
But the head of a top New York City business advocacy group opposed the measure, arguing such micro-management of staffing decisions would discourage firms from opening shop here and inflict severe damage on the Big Apple economy.
“Putting the recession aside, this would be the last straw for many employers. It is essentially the end of `at will’ employment,” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
“I cannot imagine that the sensible leaders of the council will allow this proposal to move.”
Other provisions would restrict a company’s ability to hire who they want, by requiring every new or open position be filled by workers fired for economic reasons, starting with those laid off who have the greatest seniority.
The draft legislation also sets generous terms for severance pay and bars employers from relying on worker data “gathered through electronic monitoring” in firing, disciplining or promoting employees and provide ample notice of such monitoring.
The bill also requires at least 15 days to elapse between an initial warning or discipline and termination for cause, except when the firing is for an “egregious failure” by the worker to perform duties.
Union officials who’ve seen the draft of the proposed law have reservations.
One provision would allow “non-profits” — such as groups affiliated with the DSA — to sue businesses or the city for allegedly violating the law.
Labor sources say such a move undermines unions.
“It’s a transparent power play by the DSA to replace organized labor with their advocacy group allies, while sinking the NYC economy in the process,” said one union official briefed on the bill, who requested anonymity.
“What’s the point of a union when anyone can sue on your behalf and what brain-dead individual would open a small business when anyone can sue you for firing an unprofessional employee?”
Caban defended the bill as protecting workers’ rights and livelihoods.
“No worker should be fired without a reason or warning. Yet across New York City, arbitrary and abrupt firings happen every day,” a spokesperson for the Astoria councilwoman said.
“We’ve been excited to spend the last year working with a diverse group of stakeholders on a potential expansion of the successful law that ended unjust firings in the fast food sector. We’ve shared some potential options for such an expansion with key partners, have not yet finalized any legislative language, and continue to solicit feedback.”
Caban is consulting with unions, advocacy groups, the business community about the proposed law to “build our city’s economy, and further cement New York City as the foremost leader on workers’ rights,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Comptroller Lander said, ““We are excited to be working with Council Member Caban and worker advocates to expand just cause rights to all workers.”
Vincent Alvarez, president of the NYC Central Labor Council, confirmed discussions with Caban about legislation to give unionized workers “a collective voice in the workplace.”