New York Labor Law Blog

New York union bargaining impacted by budget

Being part of a union can be a positive and beneficial experience for some employees in New York. Union members are afforded certain employee benefits, and these benefits are protected by the employee's membership within the union. One of these benefits is collective bargaining. Whether an employee seeks to negotiate wage, hours, or other work condition details, this process helps union member negotiate a fair and workable agreement.

Based on recent reports, the city of New York is currently negotiating contracts with municipal unions. During this process, Bill Linn, the city's director of labor relations is seeking to get ahead of the game. Linn noticed that there were no current labor agreements set in place when Mayor Bill Blasio took office in 2014, but as of now nearly the entire workforce has a labor agreement.

A brief history of labor unions in the U.S.

Labor unions truly had a hand in shaping American culture from the very beginning. The earliest workers and unions fought to make it clear that the U.S. was going to be place where workers were protected. Here is a brief history of the labor movement in America:

1768: America's first labor strike

According to, the first recorded labor strike occurred in New York in 1768 when journeymen tailors refused to work in protest of wage reductions.

1794: The first trade union is formed

Starting with shoemakers who formed the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers in Philadelphia, local craft unions emerged in cities throughout the country. They published price requirements for their work and demanded shorter work days.

What is collective bargaining?

In some New York industries, employees are able to join a union. Whether an individual has been part of a labor union before or not, it is important to note that being part of a union affords members certain employee benefits. These benefits do not only profit an employee but also promote a positive employment relationship between an employer and an employee. One unique benefit labor union membership can provide is collective bargaining.

What is collective bargaining? This is a relation mechanism or tool that is designed to work within the negotiation process. This tool is applicable to issues or areas concerning employment relationships.

Understanding union member rights

There are many benefits to joining a union. Workers in New York and elsewhere understand what a union stands for, but they many not fully understand how far their rights extend. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act afford union members certain rights. This Act also imposes responsibilities on union officers. Additionally, this Act provides workers with specific union member rights.

Commonly referred to as union member's Bill of Rights, this document enumerates specific protections for unionized employees. More specifically, the Bill of Rights includes the equal right to participate in all union activities, the freedom of speech and assembly, a voice in setting rates of dues, fees and assessments, protection of the right to sue, and safeguards against improper discipline.

Helping you protect your employee rights

Employees in the United States expect certain rights and benefits in the workplace. While all workers might not be fully aware how far these employee rights extend, it is clear that employees have the right to take action if they believe they are not having his or her rights or employee benefits upheld. In these matters, disputes could erupt and employees that are part of a union could take steps to protect these rights.

In order to avoid disputes and grievance mediation, employer and labor unions should take the time to ensure that their employee benefit plans comply with state and federal laws. This can be a complex matter as this is a detailed and lengthy process. This is why the attorneys at Pitta, LLP, are dedicated to serving labor unions throughout New York and New Jersey.

What are common causes of a wage and hour dispute?

When unionized workers are hired in New York, they presume that they will be paid accordingly for the job that they are completing. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, is a federal law that is enforced and overseen by the Department of Labor. This Act sets basic minimum wages and overtime pay. While the Department's Wage and Hour Division enforces these standards, employees oftentimes find themselves in predicaments where they do not think their wage and hour rights are being protected.

What are common causes of a wage and hour dispute? Unions might assert a claim if they do not believe their workers are receiving the current minimum wage. As of July 24, 2009, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which applies to any worker that is covered by the FLSA.

Understanding wage and hour disputes

Employees in New York and elsewhere are afforded certain rights and benefits. This not only makes the work experience more enjoyable and safe for these employees but also guarantees that they are treated fairly in the work environment. Arguably, the most important protections are wage and hour protections.

Both federal and state laws have evolved to guarantee that employees are compensated fairly and their employee rights are protected in the process. With regards to wages, federal and state laws outline that every worker is entitled to receive the minimum wage. These laws also detail that workers are entitled to receive overtime pay for working beyond their scheduled hours.

Helping unions handle labor law issues

Unions in New York and elsewhere face many day-to-day issues related to the welfare of their members. Whether it's in the public or private sector, unions have to make major decisions to address the needs of their rank and file.

In order to meet the constant and growing needs in the work environment, it is important that unions understand how to navigate labor law issues. This means taking measures that protect them and their members. At Pitta, LLP, our skilled attorneys have more than 40 years of experience helping New York labor unions navigate labor law issues.

Why unions are important for New York workers

There is power in numbers. This is one significant reason why labor unions in the U.S. and New York specifically have benefited and will continue to benefit the labor force. As labor law attorneys, we have represented unions in their efforts to protect their rights and the overall dignity of hardworking members of the workforce. 

The power of unions throughout history shows the importance of their existence, including now, during a transition of power that has many in the country unsure of their futures. Let's go over some of the history and importance of labor unions, if anything, as a reminder that U.S. workers do have power when exercised effectively.

Work with experienced legal counsel to protect overtime wage rights

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must generally be paid an overtime rate for all hours over 40 in any given week. For most employees, this means a rate that is one and one-half times their regular hourly rate. The rules are slightly different for residential employees, sometimes called “live-in” workers, and federal law doesn’t require overtime pay for certain types of employees, who are classified as “exempt.”

These federal rules are, of course, applicable in the state of New York, though New York also requires that business covered by the Miscellaneous Wage Order pay most workers a minimum rate of $13.50, one and one-half times $9, for all overtime hours. States are free to provide stricter overtime pay protections than those required by federal law, so workers need to be aware of both federal and state protections. 

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