Letter to the editor, May 17

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Sex harassment reforms appreciated

To the editor,

I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council for their leadership to enact a comprehensive and visionary package of reforms to address sexual harassment in our city.

Collectively, this package of legislation sends a strong message that the workplace must be filled with respect and that violating basic principles of decency will no longer be tolerated. Women’s City Club hopes that this bold action will prompt even further changes in the private sector – and, throughout society.

Carole J. Wacey
President and CEO of Women’s City Club of New York

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Opinion: The business of stopping harassment

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation sponsored by Council Member Keith Powers that’s aimed at cracking down on sexual harassment on Wednesday, May 9. (Photo courtesy of Keith Powers)

By City Council Member Keith Powers

Most businesses in New York City are small businesses. Not just small, but really small: a whopping 62.8 percent of businesses in the city have just 1-4 employees, according to census data.

For this reason, I was surprised to discover that workers for New York City businesses with fewer than four employees had no legal protection from incidents of sexual harassment under New York City’s Human Rights Law.

That’s why I introduced my first piece of legislation in January to extend sexual harassment protection to all private employees in New York City regardless of their size. The protection already existed at the state level, but this law wasn’t already in place here. That means every single private employee wasn’t protected. It was important to address this oversight, especially given how many employees fall into this group.

Our country is experiencing a watershed moment as women and men speak up about their experiences of harassment, creating the era of #MeToo. As stories unfold and wrongdoings are revealed, cities and states are taking action to modernize laws and prevent any incidents in the future.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Farewell to a kind man and neighbor

The following is a tribute from a neighbor to the late David Chowes, a 40-year resident of Peter Cooper Village, who was easily this newspaper’s most prolific writer of letters to the editor. He died last month at the age of 75.

To the editor:

Last month we lost a dear man and longtime PCV resident, David Chowes. It is only fitting that the pages of this paper offer tribute to our neighbor and friend.

I did not know David very well. Our paths crossed about three years ago when in response to my wife’s simple courtesy he presented us with a jar of his own, handcrafted pasta sauce. In more recent times we and many of our generous neighbors would offer David comfort and encouragement as he dealt with very difficult circumstances brought about by his own sensitivity and generosity. He never stopped expressing his gratitude for the support of his neighbors.

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Powers’ first bill takes aim at sexual harassment

Council Member Keith Powers earlier this week in committee (Photo by Emil Cohen/City Council)

By Sabina Mollot

For his first bill as a City Council member, Keith Powers is hoping to change language in the city’s Human Rights Law so that employees of very small companies who are facing sexual harassment can file suit against the harassers. Previously the law did not protect employees of companies that employ fewer than four people.

The bill, along with 10 others aiming to fight sexual harassment, will be discussed at a hearing on Thursday. The legislation package, including Powers’ bill, has been heavily inspired by the #MeToo movement, with Powers saying he became aware of the loophole last fall in a conversation about the movement with a friend who’s a civil rights attorney.

The friend had mentioned that state law was tweaked several years ago to end immunities from companies with fewer than four employees, but the city had yet to follow suit.

Powers, who’d just been elected, made a note then to tackle the issue once in office.

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Second Women’s March packs streets on Saturday

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Thousands of women came out to support the #MeToo movement this weekend in the second annual Women’s March, taking place a year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Protests took place across the country, with 200,000 people coming out in New York, according to the mayor’s office, and upwards of 600,000 people in Los Angeles, as well as protests in Washington, D.C. and Palm Beach, Florida, not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

This year’s March in New York spread from at least West 72nd Street on Central Park West, the official starting point, down to Columbus Circle, but police at the event near Lincoln Center on Saturday afternoon said that there were also entry points at West 86th Street. Downtown A, C and D trains were bypassing the 72nd Street stop around 1 p.m. due to crowd conditions. Signs at the March this year focused on sexual harassment and abortion rights, as well as immigration issues and the recent government shutdown.

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Opinion: The death of honor

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It was on life support…honor in government, that is. But the President pulled the plug last week.

So many cases of political corruption and personal misdeeds by our elected officials in the past number of years. Greed, lying and sexual indiscretions had become so prevalent that the public was nearly numbed by it and almost accepting such behavior as a new norm.

But with the cascading revelations and accusations against powerful men (and some women) engaging in sexual abuse and intimidation towards their underlings and others, there was a national consensus building that such behavior is simply beyond the bounds of decency or acceptance, until President Trump weighed in.

With the precipitous downfall of such important and famous persons as Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein and most recently Charlie Rose, as well as Senator Al Franken and others in Congress, it appeared that America had reached a watershed moment where such sexual abuse could not and would not be tolerated, no matter what or who. But then the President of the United States declared that politics was more important than the abuse of women or even minors.

That’s right, Donald Trump who himself stands accused of improper conduct by over a dozen women, whom he calls liars and losers, last week asserted that it was preferable for voters in Alabama to elect an alleged Republican pedophile than to vote for any Democrat. Most rational people regardless of party affiliation including the three leading newspapers in Alabama say that they believe the women who have accused Senate candidate Roy Moore of vulgar touching and unwanted aggressive sexual advances towards young girls and even one who was fourteen years old. But Trump supporters including the Alabama governor say they will vote for Roy Moore on December 12. Astonishing!

This American President who has sworn an oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” to stand for justice and be a role model for our youth has chosen to side with Mr. Moore because he does not like the politics of his opponent.

But perhaps we should not be surprised. After all this is the same man who by his own words bragged about groping women because “celebrities can.” And of course this is the same man who could find no difference between white supremacists and Neo Nazis espousing their twisted ideologies in Charlottesville with those who opposed them. This is the man who denigrates the appearance of female political opponents and calls them by derogatory names and mocks a disabled reporter.

Once again Donald Trump is sending a clear message that the nefarious actions from generations gone by when white men suppressed minorities and objectified women is fine with him. So while much of the rest of the country is turning the page and will no longer be silent or tolerate such behavior, the leader of our nation sides with America’s past as well as his own.

There is no honor in this administration, just the politics and proclivities of one man who defends only himself.

 

Hoylman pushes anti-Weinstein behavior bill

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

As a red carpet-length list of accusers continues to speak out against alleged serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein — State Senator Brad Hoylman is pushing a bill aiming to end the silencing of victims.

Hoylman, who’s authored the bill along with Queens Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, said it would forbid companies from forcing employees to waive their right to file claims of harassment or discrimination. It would also keep those companies from forcing those employees to keep quiet about such behavior. The prohibition also applies to companies when employing independent contractors.

“These non-disclosure agreements are preventing employees from speaking out so you have a vicious cycle that’s being perpetrated,” he said. “Multiple employees (of Weinstein Company) as we’ve seen, are all silenced.”

If a company were to tell an employee they still had to sign such an agreement, under the legislation, “it’s unenforceable,” said Hoylman. “A court would consider that portion null and void.”

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GOP-leaning candidate enters Council race

Melissa Jane Kronfeld says she’s a “progressive Conservative.”

Melissa Jane Kronfeld says she’s a “progressive Conservative.”

By Sabina Mollot

The race to replace term-limited City Council Member Dan Garodnick has a new candidate in the GOP-leaning Midtown East resident Melissa Jane Kronfeld.

Kronfeld, a former New York Post reporter, said she is not yet sure what party she’ll be running on, although one thing is for sure. It won’t be Democrat. The 34-year-old, a lifelong resident of the City Council District 4, which snakes its way from Stuyvesant Town to the East 90s, identifies as a “progressive Conservative.”

Asked what this means, Kronfeld, known to friends as “MJ,” said, “Being progressive and conservative are not mutually exclusive. Democrats didn’t copyright it. I checked.

“But,” she added, “we don’t bend so far to the left that it’s a free for all for everybody.”

This, she said, means support for immigrants. “There should be a process (to become legal) but I don’t want to send you anywhere because (your) parents didn’t fill out the proper paperwork,” Kronfeld said. “I’m not a conservative who will tell you don’t have the right to choose or that you don’t have the right to hold your husband’s hand if you’re a man.”

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Con Ed settles over accusations of sexual harassment, inequality

Con Edison building at 4 Irving Place

Con Edison building at 4 Irving Place

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison has agreed to a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to resolve accusations of ongoing discrimination and sexual harassment against women working in field positions for the company.

The agreement requires that Con Ed reserve up to $3.8 million that will be distributed to over 300 female workers employed in field jobs through a claims process administered by the EEOC and the attorney general. A representative from Con Edison said that the utility had voluntarily entered into the settlement agreement to resolve the investigations that began in 2007 and the agreement resolves the investigation without findings of wrongdoing. However, complaints alleged that the company failed to take effective action to improve or prevent the discriminatory conditions. The women in field positions even reported that they faced retaliation when they complained to supervisors or to Con Edison’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion about their work conditions.

“I worked at Con Edison for thirteen years, primarily as an Inspector in the field,” Con Ed Inspector Kawana Howard said. “I loved my job, was good at what I did and took pride in the fact that I was helping to keep our city running. Yet over the years I faced gender-based discrimination from my some of my male supervisors and co-workers and was retaliated against when I complained, ultimately culminating in my recent termination.”

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