Union group gathers in Albany to push for extension of prevailing wage legislation for Hudson Yards and other projects

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count me in rally albany
Image from the Count Me In rally in Albany on Feb. 27 (Count Me In Facebook page)

Hundreds of unionized construction workers gathered at a rally in Albany to pass legislation to “clearly define public work” and require the Related Companies at Hudson Yards to pay prevailing wages.

The “Count Me In” campaign seeks passage of A1261/S1947, “legislation that clearly defines public work,” the union-backed organization says in a statement.

Another view: Associated General Contractors of New York State publishes a memorandum opposing the proposed legislation

“It’s unconscionable that New York leverages our own tax dollars against us when they subsidize development with not even as much as a wage standard in place,” said Michael Hellstrom, assistant business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and campaign manager of Count Me In.

“Count Me In will not sit idly by while the state bankrolls the exploitation of construction workers and furthers the growth of the open shop, right-to-work model in the construction industry. A clear definition of public work will level the playing field for developers that want to do what’s right for their workers. It will also stop employers that don’t want to pay a fair wage, but want to benefit from tax payer subsidies to build. They will have no choice but to respect their workers and pay area-standard wages,” he said.

The group says having a clear definition of public work would shift the paradigm of procurement and ensure that projects like Hudson Yards, that receive taxpayer subsidies, are paying workers area-standard wages. “It would also help alleviate much of the debate that often surrounds taxpayer funded projects that receive large sums of money to build but lack basic standards in return,” the group says.

“The New York State constitution says public works projects must pay a prevailing wage, but under the current economic development model process too many bad actors are able to skirt this requirement and get away with paying hardworking New Yorkers less than they are owed,” said New York State Assembly Member Harry Bronson. “A simple fix to this unfortunate situation is to define “public works” projects, and my bill (A1261) would do just that. I am thankful for all the New Yorkers from across our state who joined together today to help workers earn the wages they deserve, and I look forward to this bill becoming law once and for all.”

“Defining public works and ensuring that workers on subsidized projects are paid the prevailing wage is a means to end the race to the bottom in the construction industry,” said New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos. “The bill I sponsor will reinforce what the Count Me In campaign has already been fighting for— an economy that works for working families. We are galvanizing the rank and file so that the people who build this state can continue making it their home.”

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