We Shouldn't Play Roulette With Labor Rights

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John C. Liu

[Op-Ed: New York]

Working men and women at Resorts World Casino hit the jackpot last week in what is sure to become a benchmark agreement for casino labor statewide.

More than 1,400 employees who work at the Jamaica Racino and are represented by the Hotel Trades Council are celebrating a groundbreaking contract that will raise their wages from an average $10.15 an hour to an average $19.91. In subsequent years, the contract provides a majority of the workers with salaries of more than $60,000 annually.

Additionally, the new contract grants paid sick days, holidays, personal days, vacation days, and free family healthcare. Sound like a winning streak?

Let’s double down.

The victory was made possible thanks to labor peace agreements that prohibited strikes. Instead, amicable negotiations took place that did not disrupt operations at the Racino.

While the two-year process reached its conclusion last week through arbitration, both HTC and the Racino operator, Genting, are moving forward with a win/win contract made possible without the sabre rattling and condescension that has become all too commonplace between Mayor Bloomberg and the City employee unions.

The impact of doubling the salaries of more than a thousand workers at a southern Queens business is sure to have a direct and positive effect on the local economy.

Despite the Mayor’s continual jabs at the labor movement, contract negotiations like these can lift people out of poverty and put them on the pathway to the middle class.

Income inequality is a burgeoning issue in New York City. Last year, my office found that the top 1 percent of income tax filers received one-third of all of the City’s personal income, a share that is almost twice the national average.

Such a wide income gap can weaken or destabilize the local tax base, reinforce patterns of racial and economic segregation, and undermine the vibrant social, cultural, and economic mix that is the foundation of New York City’s identity.

HTC and Resorts World Casino showed us that labor can be treated with the respect it deserves without driving away business. The real gamble is the one we take when we treat those in our workforce as second-class citizens.

 

John C. Liu is the New York City Comptroller.

 

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