BY COUNCIL MEMBERS
ELIZABETH S. CROWLEY and I. DANEEK MILLER
New York City is undeniably experiencing an affordable housing crisis. To combat this problem, each year the city provides hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans to developers building affordable housing.
If our scarce city resources are so heavily invested in developing affordable housing, then we must demand the highest operating standards. That means requiring project labor agreements and/or prevailing wages on all projects receiving financial assistance from the city.
Prevailing wages, which are set based on trade and location, call for skilled and trained workers, often members of the Building Trades Council. This leads to safer and better working conditions. According to data compiled by HPD itself, an agency that has been resistant to mandating prevailing wage requirements, and then analyzed by IBO, prevailing wage for the plan would raise costs by 23 percent.
Is a 23 percent increase on a project that is already being significantly subsidized really an elevated cost we cannot bear?
Union workers begin as apprentices and go through four years or more of schooling and on-the-job training before graduating as full-fledged tradespersons. When starting an apprenticeship, union workers earn about $13 an hour plus benefits, and after years of training, can earn $45 or more hourly plus benefits. Tradespeople are more and more reflecting the great diversity of our city, working hard for the middle class.
In the past, too many HPD projects were built at the expense of our workers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently found several developers of HPD housing guilty of owing workers almost $12 million. Prevailing wage protects our workers from wage theft and ensures they are receiving a fair, livable wage.
This is not a new idea. In 1931, Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires workers on federally funded projects to be paid the prevailing wage. In New York, State Law 220 requires workers on public projects to be paid the local prevailing wage. And in 2012, the City Council passed a similar law providing prevailing wage protection for building maintenance staff.
In New York City, the greatest city in the world, we have a responsibility to ensure that wealth and growth is shared with our workforce, and that contractors are not padding their pockets while trades workers struggle. That is why I introduced legislation (Intro 0744-2015) that would require a prevailing wage for any person performing construction work on a project receiving greater than $1 million in financial assistance from the city.
This year, let’s use the IBO report as a guide and push for the additional 23 percent that would ensure our city is built more efficiently, by experienced workers who are paid fair wages. Through this, and by passing Intro 0744, we can ensure New York City is strong for generations to come.