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Hochul reaches deal with unions to expand paid parental leave

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(The Center Square) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has reached an agreement with the state’s three largest labor unions to expand a taxpayer-funded paid parental leave program to more than 52,000 state employees.

The deal between Hochul and the Civil Service Employees Association announced on Tuesday calls for offering up to 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave benefits to more than 80% of the state’s workforce for bonding with a newborn, fostered or adopted child. The union’s rank-and-file membership must still ratify the deal.

“No one should have to choose between a paycheck and caring for their newborn child,” Hochul said in a statement. “By extending fully paid parental leave to over 80% of state employees, New York is leading by example and providing a critical line of support for hardworking families.”

Hochul also announced pending contractual agreements with the Public Employees Federation, representing public employees with professional, scientific, and technical titles, and the United University Professions, representing workers in higher education, including fully paid parental leave benefits for about 88,000 state workers.

If the contracts are ratified, more than 140,000 unionized state employees will join 10,000 unrepresented New York state employees who became eligible for the paid leave benefits following a policy update announced by Hochul in February.

The Hochul administration is negotiating with other public sector unions to extend paid leave benefits to other state workers through collective bargaining.

CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan praised the agreement, saying it “recognizes that anyone who has the opportunity to become a parent either through childbirth, adoption or fostering should be allowed to spend the time to strengthen parental-child bonds without worrying about the economic impact of being on unpaid leave.”

“Paid parental leave will be another great benefit for our union members,” she said in a statement. “While much of the United States is far behind other countries regarding paid family and parental leave policies, New York has definitely taken a step in the right direction.”

Other state officials also praised the agreement, which they said would improve working conditions and morale by allowing working parents to spend more time with their families.

New York State Office of Employee Relations Director Michael Volforte said paid parental leave will “make a significant difference to working families by helping parents care for their children without the fear of losing a paycheck.”

Hochul had pledged to expand parental leave for state employees in her State of the State address last month, calling it a key plank of her agenda.

In 2016, New York approved its Paid Family Leave law, billed as one of the nation’s most generous paid leave programs.

Those benefits were phased in over several years, providing up to eight weeks, 50% pay in 2018 when the law went into effect and reaching 12 weeks, 67% pay in 2021.

Two years ago, Hochul signed legislation expanding the law to include workers who needed time off to care for a seriously ill sibling.

At least 13 states have approved paid family and medical leave laws, according to a 2022 report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which called the issue a “kitchen-table” concern for millions of working families.

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