Tuesday, June 02, 2009

NPO Developers Should Pay The Prevailing Wage

Apparently there is a little fight going on up in Albany over whether developers who build non-profit housing should pay their workers what they're worth. Developers argue that paying a union wage is bad for their costs, the rents of future low-income tenants and they even claim minority construction workers won't be able to do the building because unions don't like them. They also claim that there'll be less affordable housing units available. There seem to be plenty of marks against a bill mandating public works labor be at a union rate, but this is a matter of principle.

From The NY Times:

Under state law, laborers on public works projects must be paid the prevailing wage, which varies according to the trade and location. The proposed legislation would expand the definition of public works to include all government-subsidized building projects by for-profit and nonprofit developers. Most workers who build subsidized low-cost housing in New York City are not currently required to be paid the prevailing wage. Projects receiving federal subsidies are required to pay it, under federal law.[...]

The New York State Building and Construction Trades Council of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., an influential labor group that represents the state’s major construction unions, has been pushing lawmakers to expand the prevailing-wage requirements for years.

“Is the cost of construction higher? Yes it is,” said Edward J. Malloy, president of the group. “But I think we deliver a better product, on time and in budget.”

On time and in budget are just two bonuses, not to mention the fact that more construction workers will be paid a healthy hourly rate. The fact of the matter is, these jobs are propelled by government subsidies. When the Federal government is paying for it, union wages are paid. Now it is time for the state to do the same thing. The state legislature should encourage higher wages in this arena just as it does in other arenas.