May 1, 2018

Assembly Passes Measure to Ensure Fair Wages on
Public Construction Projects

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Harry Bronson today announced the passage of legislation to ensure all professionals and laborers engaged on construction projects that receive public financing or incentives are paid the prevailing wage.

"It is a shameful reality that workers continue to be paid less than competitive rates for their labor, especially on public works projects," said Heastie. "All workers deserve to be paid a fair, livable wage that does not erode the value of their work or jeopardize their livelihoods."

"This bill draws a hard line against contractors who enjoy the benefits of state contracts, grants and other incentives while taking advantage of the workers that make these projects possible," said Assemblymember Bronson, the bill's sponsor. "By clearly defining the Legislature's intent to protect workers and ensure that they receive a fair and living wage, we can eliminate the ambiguity that allows exploitation to continue and prevent costly litigation arising from wage disputes after the fact."

The New York State Constitution requires payment of the prevailing wage on all public works projects. Due to decades of debate and narrowly applied judicial opinions on the definition of "public work," there has been inconsistency in the application of the prevailing wage requirement, to the detriment of workers. Assembly bill 5498-A (Bronson) would restore the constitutional intent of the prevailing wage law by establishing a clear definition of public work that includes any construction projects paid for in whole or part by public funds. Under the bill, "public funds" would include payments of money, issuance of bonds and grants issued by the state, a public entity or third party acting on behalf of a third party, the transfer of a public asset for less than fair market value, as well as certain loans, tax credits and other forms of public subsidies.

Additionally the bill would:

Federal and state prevailing wage laws were enacted to ensure that public construction projects do not drive down wages and cut workers out of important fringe benefits like health insurance, wage and hour limits and other protections. If enacted, this measure would settle longstanding disputes over the scope of prevailing wage and provide a clear standard going forward that will make it harder for unscrupulous contractors to underpay workers on publicly supported projects.