NY-21 from the bleachers — Stefanik and labor

Early campaign contributions from labor unions to the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, have dried up this election cycle, so far.

In the first six months of 2019, labor union political action committees contributed $15,000 to Stefanik’s re-election campaign, while in the first six months of this year, the most recent information available, labor PACs contributed nothing to Stefanik’s campaign.

Stefanik, who no doubt would appreciate labor support, has backed some legislation favorable to labor this year, but also has backed legislation to rein in jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, and she led Republican opposition to Democratic equal pay legislation, a legislative priority for the AFL-CIO and for President Biden.

On April 13, Stefanik introduced the Wage Equity Act — H.R. 2491, which had 55 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

The largely symbolic legislation publicized Republican objections to Democratic pay equity legislation — the Paycheck Fairness Act — which passed the House two days later by a vote of 217 to 210, with only one Republican voting in favor.

Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. are original Senate co-sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the legislation that passed the House.

Stefanik said in a press release in February that her legislation was more “practical” than the legislation that Schumer and Gillibrand supported, and would not make employers susceptible to law suits and expensive costs to comply with the law.

“The Democrats’ alternative legislation would pave the way for frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary burdens on businesses, including those owned and operated by women themselves,” Stefanik said.

Schumer, however, said the legislation makes common sense.

“It is a modest proposal to address a real problem in our economy: women with the same jobs and same qualifications as their male colleagues often make less money,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor on June 8, when Senate Republicans blocked the legislation from coming up for debate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy and education organization, are among groups that oppose the Democratic legislation.

The American Bar Association and the AFL-CIO are among groups that support the legislation.

Stefanik has joined Democrats in supporting some labor-related legislation.

  • She was an early co-sponsor of the Pregnant Workers Act — bipartisan legislation that passed the House in May to prohibit employment discrimination of pregnant women.

Stefanik co-sponsored the legislation– H.R. 1065 — three days after Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D- Manhattan, introduced it on Feb. 15.

The law, which passed the House May 14, but has not passed the Senate, prohibits employers from denying employment based on pregnancy, and requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant employees, providing if would not place “an undue burden” on the business operation.

Employers would be prohibited from retaliating against employees that seek accommodations, and would be prohibited from requiring a pregnant employee to take paid or unpaid leave.

Stefanik was one of 20 Republican co-sponsors when the law passed the House, and one of 99 Republicans that voted in favor of the law, which passed 315 to 101.

  • On April 14, Stefanik was an original co-sponsor with Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Ca., of the bipartisan Equal Pay for Service Members Act — H.R. 2502 — to require the military to ensure that the out-of-pocket cost for uniforms is the same for females as males.

The legislation had 25 co-sponsors, as of Sept. 1–20 Democrats and five Republicans.

Stefanik, a four-term congresswoman, plans to run for re-election next year.

Four candidates, so far, are seeking the Democratic nomination to run against her: Matt Putorti, a lawyer who grew up in Whitehall and recently moved back to the town from New York City; Bridie Farrell, a speed skater and crime victim activist who grew up in Saratoga Springs and recently moved from New York City to North River; Ezra Watson, a semi-conductor engineer from Wilton; and Matt Castelli, a former CIA agent who recently moved to Saratoga County.

None of the Democratic candidates had received labor contributions, as of June 30.

In the past, Stefanik has typically run with better that average labor support, for Republicans.

Her support particularly came from buildings and construction trades, air traffic controller, postal worker and police unions.

In the 2019–2020 election cycle, Stefanik received $94,906 in contributions from labor union PACs, while Democrat Tedra Cobb received $43,750.

In 2016, New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers’ union, endorsed Stefanik for re-election, but not in 2018 or 2020.

In January, the Greater Capital Region Building and Trades Council, in a symbolic act, rescinded its 2020 campaign endorsement of Stefanik.

The coalition of labor unions said in a statement that her refusal to denounce former President Donald Trump after his supporters invaded the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6 outweighed her support of project labor agreements and paying of prevailing wages that had won their campaign endorsement.

Stefanik had a 62 percent score on the AFL-CIO congressional scorecard in 2019, the most recent available, the second highest score of any House Republican.

She had a 43 percent cumulative score since she had entered Congress.

Other labor-related legislation Stefanik has sponsored or co-sponsored this year is as follows:

  • H.R. 1603 — Bipartisan legislation that passed the House March 18 to establish an electronic application and verification system for H-2A visas for temporary immigrant farm workers, allow for three-year visas to reduce costs for workers, switch from newspaper to electronic recruitment advertisements, and establish a program for ag workers to earn legal immigration status through continued agricultural employment.

Stefanik co-sponsored the legislation one day after Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA., introduced it.

The legislation passed by a vote of 247 to 103, with only one Democrat voting against it.

Thirty Republicans voted in favor of the legislation, and 173 against.

  • H.R. 1523 — Legislation Stefanik introduced March 2 to simplify the definition of an independent contractor to make it consistent across federal and state rules and to eliminative confusion for businesses and independent contractors.

The legislation had eight co-sponsors, all Republican, as of Sept. 3.

  • H.R. 2112 — Legislation Stefanik and Rep. Jason Crow, D-CO, introduced March 19 to provide grants to states to provide vocational training for people that lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation had no other co-sponsors, as of Sept. 1.

  • H.R. 3268 — legislation Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, introduced May 17 to crack down on unemployment fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanik was one of 39 co-sponsors, all Republican, as of Sept. 1

  • H.R. 3254 — Legislation Stefanik was an original co-sponsor of with Rep. Barry Louderville, R-Ga., introduced May 14 to end federal pandemic unemployment compensation benefits.

The legislation had 24 co-sponsors, all Republican, as of Sept.1.

  • H.R. 5185 — Legislation Rep. James Comer introduced May 17 to clarify the definition of a “join employer” in response to recent National Labor Relations Board decisions.

Stefanilk was one of 65 co-sponsors, all Republican, as of Sept. 1.

  • H.R. 5080 — Legislation known as the “Back the Blue Act” that Rep. that Rep. Don Bacon, R-NE, introduced May 11 to criminal penalties for killing or attempting to kill a police officer.

Stefanik was one of 20 co-sponsors, all Republican, as of Sept.1.

Sources: Congress.gov, the government information website of the Library of Congress, and House member press releases

Click here to read my most recent previous NY-21 from the bleachers post.

Maury Thompson covered government and politics for The Post-Star of Glens Falls for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He still keeps an eye on 21st Congressional District politics from a distance.

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY