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NY Activist to Biden Task Force: Come Visit the Empire State

March 9, 2009

Albany, NY - Come visit New York! That's the invitation a New York think tank is issuing to Vice President Joe Biden's Middle-Class Task Force. The White House calls it "a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America." The Vice President has taken his task force on the road, holding its inaugural hearing in Philadelphia.

He should book a trip to New York immediately, says Amy Traub of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a progressive think tank. Traub calls the Empire State "one of the most unequal places in the country," explaining that the state's labor force ranges from Wall Street's so-called "Masters of the Universe" to poverty-stricken residents of the state's worst neighborhoods.

"In between, the middle class is squeezed by the high cost of living that we have, especially in New York City and the suburbs. So New York is really an ideal place to look at and make sure that economic growth really does help strengthen and expand the middle class."

If the Middle-Class Task Force were to hold a hearing in New York, Traub says her organization would want task force members to know it favors easing union organizing in the workplace.

"Union jobs tend to pay more and offer middle-class benefits like health-care coverage and a retirement plan. But the laws about forming unions have been skewed, so they make it very difficult to exercise the right we're all supposed to have to organize a union at work."

Meeting with labor leaders late last week, Vice President Biden endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that Traub and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy say would create union jobs with middle-class wages and benefits.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other critics, says the National Labor Relations Act and other remedies exist to help prevent unfair labor practices.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY