New York City Council Progressive Caucus, Writers Guild, Writers from DNAInfo and Gothamist, and Unions Condemn Local News Shutdown

New York, NY – The New York City Council Progressive Caucus and writers from DNAinfo and Gothamist, along with Writers Guild of America, East members and staff, held a rally with over 300 attendees on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 1:00 PM to fight for the unionized editorial employees at DNAinfo and Gothamist. On Thursday, the publications’ owner – right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts – announced that he had shut down the popular local news sites and boasted that the employees were to blame for his decision because they exercised their right to unionize. The Progressive Caucus stands with the writers from DNAinfo and the Gothamist to demand answers for this unjust shutdown and to protect the rights of workers, including journalists, in our city.

“As the right to organize and a free press are constantly under attack across the nation, the last thing we need here in New York City is a billionaire taking a machete to these two rights that are critical to our democracy,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Many communities have just been left without a local reporter shedding light on the neighborhood they know so well. The actions of Joe Ricketts must not be taken lightly and we must stand up to support the great work of these local reporters who dedicate their lives to keeping New Yorkers informed.”

“Local media is essential to an informed democracy, and this union-busting action by a billionaire Trump supporter is unacceptable,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “ We stand today in solidarity with the writers who worked hard everyday to make sure that New Yorkers were aware of what was happening in their neighborhoods. The absence of DNAInfo and Gothamist leaves a large hole in local media coverage that isn’t easily filled.”

“Whatever interest Mr. Ricketts may have possessed at one time in ‘supporting exceptional neighborhood storytelling,’ was laid waste to by his actions last week. That he shuttered these two publications exactly one week after their New York affiliate voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America East in an effort to negotiate for fair labor standards is simply unconscionable. This furtherance of Mr. Ricketts’ declared union-busting agenda has upended the lives of more than 100 journalists from coast-to-coast. I stand with these professionals, DNAist Union and the Writers Guild of America East as they seek to redress the wrongs they have suffered for pursuing the job security we all desire,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, and member of the Progressive Caucus.

“The shutting down of DNAinfo and Gothamist is a  clear example of what union busting looks like in 2017. It’s disappointing that when workers band together for deserved living wages and benefits this is how billionaire bankers react,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.”It is hard to imagine that somehow financial profits could not be drawn from these beloved publications and they had to be shut down when other hyperlocal media outlets have figured out how to be profitable.”

“The idea of any business closing because its workers have chosen to organize is an affront. It’s especially galling given how noble the work done by the writers and editors at DNA Info and Gothamist was. Local news reporting is not glamorous and it certainly isn’t lucrative. But it is noble because, at its heart, it is a public service. Local journalism is an attempt to keep New Yorkers informed about their own neighborhoods and to hold leaders of all levels accountable—-from the Mayor to the Council all the way down to the Community Board or police precinct. I want to express my outrage at the conduct of Joe Ricketts and my solidarity with the workers whose lives have been upended. I also want to stress that our society has a collective responsibility to ensure that all residents have access to quality news about their neighborhoods,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.

“For years, the hardworking journalists of DNA Info and Gothamist covered neighborhood stories big and small, and shed light on some of the most important issues in our city. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we support a free and independent press that holds Elected Officials accountable and keeps the citizens of New York City in every neighborhood informed on the issues that matter. By shutting down these essential outlets of local journalism solely to retaliate against workers seeking to bargain collectively, billionaire Joe Ricketts has harmed our democracy to further line his pockets. I strongly condemn his actions, said Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“Local journalism is one of the pillars of our neighborhoods, a way of holding politicians, stakeholders, and others accountable for their actions,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, member of the Progressive Caucus. “A profession that over the years has become a passion for many, rather than a sustainable way of making a living. Joe Ricketts’ decision to shut down, without previous warning, DNA Info and Gothamist is despicable. Having in mind that it came days after the editorial team of both publications decided to unionize and fight for better contracts and working conditions. Mr. Ricketts’ actions shouldn’t become common practice, especially in Trump’s era, where facts are manipulated and the truth seems to have alternative versions. We stand with the reporters affected by this cowardly decision and will continue to advocate for local journalism.”

“That the phenomenal journalism of DNA Info and Gothamist was ended out of retaliation for unionizing is a tragedy that we thought belonged to another age,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, member of the Progressive Caucus. “We must stand in solidarity with all workers and especially those whose efforts bring greater transparency and accountability to government and give voice to the voiceless. Now more than ever, we need a strong and independent free press.  I’d like to thank each and every member of the Gothamist and DNA Info teams for their work and their bravery in standing against corporate greed in the name of fairness.”

“Cowardice only begins to describe Mr. Rickett’s union-busting tactics,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, member of the Progressive Caucus. “This billionaire is being a bully, plain and simple. We must always fight for the rights of workers to unionize, and for others to think otherwise is shameful and disappointing.”

“The work of local news outlets and journalists are fundamental to the survival of our democracy, said Council Member Margaret Chin, member of the Progressive Caucus. “This is a shameful retaliation against workers’ right to organize. An attack on unions is an attack against our right to better livelihoods, and I stand in solidarity with DNAistUnion workers.”

“Mr. Ricketts’ actions shut down sources of excellent independent journalism, and risk the financial livelihoods of reporters who bring us the news every day. We stand firmly with the Writers Guild of America East, and with journalists and their families who have been attacked simply for show,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, member of the Progressive Caucus.

The shuttering of hyper-local news publications DNA Info and Gothamist by owner, Joe Ricketts, is a blow to community media. New York City needs local journalism to serve our diverse communities in ways mainstream media outlets do not. The abrupt shutdown gives every appearance of union busting because the employees of these valuable news publications very recently voted to organize as part of the Writers Guild.  The employees of Mr. Rickett’s firm deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. They have performed admirable public service for many years, and the archives of their previous work should remain freely accessible,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“Shutting down Gothamist and DNAinfo is a huge loss, not only to the excellent team of reporters, editors, and more who worked for these publications but to all of us in the city who rely on them for dogged, dedicated local reporting,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, member of the Progressive Caucus. “Clearly, Joe Ricketts has no respect for the Gothamist and DNAinfo teams, punishing them for voting to unionize by ending the publication. Ricketts is following in the model of Trump and his Republicans, busting unions and putting profit over people. This is not acceptable, and it’s past time for these staffs received the respect they deserve.”

“I condemn the actions of billionaire Joe Ricketts who, rather than take the time to listen to the hardworking employees who helped build his business, terminated their employment in retaliation for their vote to organize and speak as one,” said Council Member Debi Rose, member of the Progressive Caucus. “I support the employees in any redress they are seeking, and my hope is that they find employment with an employer who values their work and talent.”

“It was great courage on the behalf of the intrepid staff of DNAInfo & Gothamist to organize together. However, it’s an outrage that Joe Rickett couldn’t keep his union-busting, Trump-supporting interests from rearing its ugly head. Shutting down these two outlets wasn’t a business decision, it was an ideological one,” said Council Member Brad Lander, member of the Progressive Caucus. “We stand in solidarity behind these journalists – and hope that they continue to work to uphold an important part in our democracy since both of these local news outlets were well-loved because of the work they did to report on issues that impact and affect New Yorkers daily. Their loss not only hurts journalists, they hurt the communities they deserved. Shame on Joe Ricketts, joining the list of billionaires who can’t handle critique or opposition.”

“In a time when free speech, democracy, and workers’ rights are under attack, we must stand firmly on their side,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, member of the Progressive Caucus. “We see once again that, as we resist the national rhetoric of hate and disregard for our rights, we must stay vigilant at home in New York City. I will fight in solidarity with the writers and editors at DNA Info and Gothamist, and the Writers Guild of America against this unconscionable action to weaken their rights to negotiate better contracts and working conditions.”

“Joe Ricketts’ retaliation against DNAinfo and Gothamist reporters who chose to unionize cannot go unanswered, and I urge the National Labor Relations Board to investigate his union-busting conduct,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. “His selfish act deprives New Yorkers of two vital news outlets, and is a slap in the face to all working people. I’m proud to stand with DNAinfo and Gothamist employees in condemning these shameful actions.”

“It is outrageous that our city is losing DNAinfo and Gothamist’s dedicated reporting because a billionaire wanted to spite his employees for daring to unionize. Reporters provide an invaluable service, and they deserve the right to negotiate for fair wages and benefits. The reporters and staff of DNAinfo and Gothamist have dutifully covered the local issues that matter to our neighborhoods. Their work, like the crucial coverage of Hurricane Sandy recovery process by reporter Katie Honan, should be part of our city’s historic record. I stand with the workers of DNAinfo and Gothamist, and support their right to have their work archived,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

Writers Guild of America East’s Executive Director Lowell Peterson said, “Joe Ricketts needs to come clean.  Did he violate the law by firing people because they exercised their right to unionize?  Or did he decide the business wasn’t generating enough profit, and then try to score some ideological points by blaming his employees and their union?   Either way, these journalists do work that is essential to communities across New York, and the WGAE will make sure their rights are protected and their voices are heard.”

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New York City Council Passes Last Stand for Tenant Safety Bill, Endorsed by Progressive Caucus, to End Construction as Harassment

New York, NY – On September 27, the New York City Council passed Intro. 0934, the last bill in the 12-bill package introduced as part of the Stand for Tenant Safety legislation. The bill will create a Real Time Enforcement Unit (RTEU) in the Department of Buildings (DOB). The RTEU will be tasked with regularly monitoring, inspecting, and swiftly responding to hazardous complaints related to work completed in occupied dwellings.

The Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) legislation is a part of the Progressive Caucus’ ADVANCEMENT policy platform. Championed by Progressive Caucus Members and tenants and advocates in the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) Coalition, this bill, along with the 11 others previously passed in August, will be moved to passage to strengthen the ability of the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) to protect tenants in regards to construction harassment.

“Far too many try to bypass, bend, and break the law in pursuit of profit,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, member of the Progressive Caucus lead sponsor of Intro 934. “We cannot and will not allow unscrupulous landlords to take advantage of our community. The STS package of bills goes to lengths to provide tenants the protections they deserve. Now with the passage of 934, which establishes a real-time enforcement unit, we are putting bad landlords on notice. This specially created unit will greatly increase the protections available to tenants facing harassment. We want to let tenants facing harassment and displacement know that they are not alone in this fight – through this coalition, we are a more engaged, compassionate, and just city. With this last bill in the package, I’m proud to continue advancing the work of the Stand for Safety Coalition, and I look forward to real progress for New Yorkers everywhere.”

“I am proud to Stand for Tenant Safety. This a victory for everyone- for the advocates who have been tirelessly working on the ground in our neighborhoods and for the tenants who are being driven out of their rent stabilized homes by unscrupulous landlords. The citywide coalition’s assistance with crafting the legislation has been paramount,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus and lead sponsor of Intro 938, 939, and 940 (previously passed). “Today, the Department of Buildings has an additional bill that is part of a comprehensive package of reforms to work with for better enforcement. This bill strengthens and protects tenants’ rights to stay in their homes and not be harassed by construction to their unit or building. This is key legislation for my district of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood where these tactics run rampant, and just as valuable for families throughout the City.”

“With the passage of the Real Time Enforcement Unit, the City Council and the Progressive Caucus are putting landlords on notice that tenant harassment is unacceptable in this city,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “These practices aimed at displacing New Yorkers are inexcusable and put resident safety at risk, all so a landlord can raise rents. The entire Stand for Tenant Safety legislative package will ensure that landlords are held accountable and root out any property owners who don’t stand for their tenant’s well-being.”

“I’m so inspired by the advocates who have spent years fighting to make the Stand for Tenant Safety package of reforms possible–this is their victory,” said Progressive Caucus Vice Chair for Budget Advocacy Council Member Helen Rosenthal and lead sponsor of previously passed Intro 944. “This legislation represents a sweeping reform to the Department of Buildings, and it will have a major impact on the lives of tenants across our city. Congratulations to my colleague Steve Levin, the entire Stand for Tenant Safety coalition, and to all my colleagues on the Council who took on this cause and did not give up.”

“Introduction 934-A is the last piece in the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) legislative package which, taken together will correct the bad behaviors of the City’s worst landlords. By creating a special enforcement unit this bill will ensure violations are followed with action by the Department of Buildings,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Vice Chair for Policy for the Progressive Caucus and lead sponsor of introductions 930 and 931. “For too long some landlords and building owners have neither fixed recurring problems on their properties nor paid the fines that go along with those violations, putting tenants in unsafe conditions sometimes for years on end. Introduction 934-A will further help New Yorkers and represents a great victory for tenant safety.”

The STS Coalition is a citywide alliance of grassroots tenant organizations and legal service groups collaborating with the Progressive Caucus and the eleven City Council prime sponsors to push for the STS legislation.

This bill, along with the 11 others passed in August as part of in the STS legislative package, provides tenants better protection from dangerous construction and help DOB to enforce already existing laws. Without these bills, unscrupulous landlords can use loopholes in the city’s enforcement to create hazardous construction conditions to push tenants out of their homes.

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Progressive Caucus Statement on the Trump Administration’s Decision to End DACA

 New York, NY— The New York City Council Progressive Caucus is outraged by the Trump administration’s cruel decision to formally end DACA — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Many Dreamers have never known another home than the US. In the five years since DACA was enacted, the almost 800,000 individuals who have received the legal protections under the law have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and colleges across the country. The Caucus stands with DACA recipients and their families, as well as our elected colleagues across the state of New York, to demand that Congress act to preserve the program’s protections before the DACA recipients begin losing their status early next year. We also continually pledge, as progressive elected officials, to stand up for the rights of our fellow New Yorkers and to fight for our values as a sanctuary city.

New York City Council Progressive Caucus announces new filings against NYPD denial of information

New York, NY – On August 17, 2017, the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council held a press conference to announce their legal filing of an amicus brief urging the court to reject the NYPD’s concealment of records regarding the killing of Ramarley Graham. Unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother by NYPD Officer Richard Haste in 2012.

“Ramarley Graham’s family deserves to understand the circumstances of Ramarley’s death,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “The family has been seeking justice and transparency for the last five years, since Ramarley was killed by NYPD Officer Haste in 2012. That’s why the Progressive Caucus has filed a legal amicus brief supporting the family in their continual challenges to the NYPD’s denial of information. The Progressive Caucus is committed to issues of police accountability and transparency, and building stronger relationships between the police and the communities that they serve.  We hope the court considers the precedent that will be set by this case for the future of ongoing efforts to rebuild public trust in the NYPD.”

“Time after time, the NYPD continues to withhold information that would go a long way toward understanding and closure for the families of New Yorkers who were killed at the hands of the NYPD,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Ramarley Graham’s family has been waiting five long years for relief, so it is long past due that the NYPD provide transparency and accountability for the actions of their officers. It is time for them to do what is right and hold trials for the other officers and release the details of the case to the Graham family.”

“I wholeheartedly join my Progressive Caucus colleagues in their continued call on the NYPD to fully inform the family of Ramarley Graham and all New Yorkers regarding their investigation into Ramarley’s death,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Vice-Chair of Budget for the Progressive Caucus. “It is essential that the NYPD act in in a transparent and accountable fashion to maintain public trust.”

“For an administration that has repeated commitments to better transparency and accountability around the better policing conversation, it remains aggravating to hear these commitments, while simultaneously keeping information from Ramarley Graham’s family regarding the circumstances around his murder. It’s time that the words are backed by real-time action,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“The family of Ramarley Graham has suffered for too long and all they seek is justice for the death of their son. It is long overdue. We’ll continue to stand and fight with them until the culpable officers are held accountable and the family receives the closure they deserve,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, member of the Progressive Caucus.

“Transparency and accountability for charges of police misconduct are essential to ensure public trust and safety,” said Council Member Brad Lander, member of the Progressive Caucus. More than 5 years after Ramarley Graham was killed, his family still has neither transparency nor accountability: for the unlawful entry into their home, for the taking of his life, for how family members were treated by officers, for the release of information about Ramarley that violated state law. It is long past time — and the least that New York City owes Ramarley’s family and all New Yorkers.”

The family of Ramarley Graham has been seeking information on his killing for over five years, since he was killed in 2012. They have sent repeated letters and requests to the NYPD but never received a response from the City. The lack of response forced them to file an extensive Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in order to access information that could illuminate the misconduct related to Graham’s killing.

Further lack of cooperation from the NYPD led to Graham’s family and supporters to file a lawsuit forcing the NYPD to comply with state freedom of information law by releasing the information. Yet nonetheless, the NYPD continues to fight compliance to release the information on the police activity that led to Ramarley Graham’s killing.

In the News:

Press Release from Communities United for Police Reform (CPR)

NY Daily News: City Council Progressive Caucus backs Ramarley Graham’s family in effort to get NYPD records

Gothamist: City Councilmembers To NYPD: Release Ramarley Graham’s Records To His Family

 

 

Progressive Caucus Outraged at Racial Statement Made Against Senator Stewart-Cousins

New York, NY – The Progressive Caucus condemns the comments made by hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb, taking aim at New York State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester, the chamber’s first black female majority leader. In a Facebook post, Loeb, a major financial supporter of Governor Cuomo, said, “hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”

To compare the first female legislative leader, specifically the first black female legislative leader, in New York State history to a white supremacist terrorist organization is shocking and shameful. In her decades long career, Stewart-Cousins has been a champion of same-sex marriage, equitable education, women and human rights, equal housing opportunities, and a living wage. Members of the Progressive Caucus denounce these comments that perpetuate the dangerous, racist rhetoric that equates those working to advance civil and human rights with the actions of known hate groups, a rhetoric that seems to be creeping into our national discourse. As progressive electeds, we reject this rhetoric which skews focus from the important work of making New York State a place where equal opportunity and respectful dialogue thrives. The Progressive Caucus stands in solidarity with Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

 

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