Cuomo to back prevailing wage law for construction work, making unions happy

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to expand the state’s prevailing wage law has made construction unions happy, but could drive construction costs in New York even higher according to a conservative think tank.

Cuomo proposed a new law as part of his budget address on Jan. 14 that would require developers that receive public subsidies for building projects to pay a higher union wage, the New York Post has reported.

“We’re very grateful to the governor for his continued support of organized labor and the building trades,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York. “The governor is advocating for hard-working men and women in the state and believes they’re entitled to a fair deal.”

However, Ken Girardin, an analyst with the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy said: “New York’s prevailing wage mandate is an archaic law that adds needlessly 25 percent to the cost of public construction in the city.” He said the law would increase project costs by 13 per cent outside of NYC.

“Expanding prevailing would serve the interests of politicians currying favor with the building trades (unions), not the taxpayers,” Girardin was quoted as saying.

While construction unions had wanted to expand prevailing wage protections for years, their efforts experienced opposition in the formerly Republican-controlled state Senate.

But now Democrats control the chamber as well as the State Assembly, and Cuomo considers the prevailing wage proposal to be a top priority.

The Post reports that it remains unclear exactly what form the proposed changes to the prevailing wage law would take as Cuomo’s budget proposal did not expressly address the matter.

Previously, unions have pushed for the wage protections to be expanded from “public works” like a highway or airport to any project that receives any form of state funding, including subsidies or tax breaks.

“The Governor is a champion of organized labor and supports prevailing wages for public dollars to strengthen the working class,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Caitlin Girouard.

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