Real Estate

Laborers Union Pushes $40/Hour Wage for City-Funded Projects Over $1M

Union pushes for $40/hr wage floor on city-funded projects with $1M+ financing and 100+ units.

By Tal Alexander

5/23, 09:22 EDT

Key Takeaway

  • Council member Carmen De La Rosa reintroduces a bill to set a $40/hour minimum wage for construction on city-financed projects over $1 million.
  • The measure targets projects with 100+ units and $3 million+ in construction costs, aiming to benefit both union and nonunion workers.
  • The Real Estate Board of New York supports the laborers' bill but finds the carpenters' prevailing-wage requirements unworkable.

Laborers' Union Advocates for Fair Wages

Organized labor has achieved a significant milestone by securing minimum construction wages for projects citywide that receive property tax break 485x. Now, the laborers’ union is pushing to extend these wage protections to other affordable housing projects. Council member Carmen De La Rosa is set to reintroduce a measure that mandates a minimum of $40 per hour for construction wages and benefits on projects receiving $1 million or more in city financing. This initiative aims to ensure that construction workers on these projects are fairly compensated, reflecting a broader effort to improve labor conditions in the construction industry.

Details of the Proposed Legislation

The proposed legislation, which has undergone some revisions since its initial introduction last year, stipulates that the wage and benefit requirements will apply to projects with 100 or more units and construction costs of $3 million or more. Additionally, developers must make a "best faith effort" to ensure that at least 30 percent of the hours worked on the project are by individuals from a "target population"—those living in zip codes where at least 15 percent of residents earn below the federal poverty level or reside in public housing. This measure is designed to promote economic inclusivity and provide opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

Broader Implications for the Construction Industry

The significance of this legislation extends beyond just wage increases. It represents a strategic move to enhance job quality and economic stability for construction workers, particularly in the affordable housing sector. The Mason Tenders’ District Council, which supports the bill, previously spearheaded the 485x minimum-wage agreement with the Real Estate Board of New York, setting a precedent for fair wages on large-scale projects. If passed, the new bill would apply to non-485x projects, potentially increasing union laborers' market share in affordable housing—a sector where they have historically struggled to compete.

Contrasting Perspectives and Market Impact

While the laborers’ union argues that the measure will benefit all construction workers, not just union members, there are contrasting viewpoints within the industry. The Real Estate Board of New York has shown conceptual support for the bill but finds the prevailing-wage requirements in a separate carpenters’ union bill unworkable. This highlights the ongoing debate over how best to balance fair wages with the economic realities of construction projects. The proposed legislation could lead to higher project costs, but it also promises to improve job quality and worker retention, addressing some of the industry's long-standing issues.

Management Quotes

  • Carmen De La Rosa, Council Member:

    "We are stepping up to ensure that construction workers who build new affordable apartments earn just wages and benefits, and get a real chance to stay in the city they call home."

  • Dave Bolger, Business Manager of the Mason Tenders’ District Council:

    "We believe in raising wages and improving job quality for all construction workers, not just our members."