Legislators in Albany may narrow the scope of a bill that would define which public works projects require higher wages.
A new bill under consideration could include thresholds that vary by region, according to the Wall Street Journal. A New York City project could receive as much as $1 million in subsidies without requiring a prevailing wage, and a new commission would determine how much support a project could get from an industrial development agency before prevailing wage requirements take hold.
New York’s constitution requires prevailing wages for public works projects but does not define either term. Building organizations want to define public works as any project receiving public funds, and the state’s Department of Labor sets prevailing wage rates based on union contracts.
Economic development and business groups oppose the law with varying thresholds, arguing that it still defines public works too broadly and will lead to higher costs and less construction. Building groups have said these are overblown concerns, and they plan to rally on Tuesday at the Capitol.
Expanding the definition of public works could be a major benefit for New York’s construction unions, as it would basically require all projects receiving public funding to pay union-level wages. This would take away nonunion contractors’ ability to say they would cost less money to hire. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has previously signaled he would push for a broadening of the definition. [WSJ] – Eddie Small