With an executive order, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, took the fate of construction workers’ wages out of the hands of the City Comptroller, John Liu, threatening the prevailing wage for nearly 10,000 workers. The move, which goes against 120 years of labor relations, was done without public comment or cooperation. A legal challenge to the move has been set off and the New York State AFL-CIO has joined with workers in voicing opinion on the apparently austerity-based decision:
“The Executive Order was done without public discussion and behind closed doors. No effort was made to communicate with the workers, they deserve better than that, and that’s why we back their legal challenge,” said NYC Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez.
NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said Bloomberg’s unilateral move has long-term effects on workers across many fields.
“This is a slap in the face to all workers and all New Yorkers. The New York State AFL-CIO will fight with our brothers and sisters to overturn the Mayor’s unilateral decision. The Labor Movement in this state will never tolerate such blatant disregard for the voice of working men and women on an issue that directly affects their lives, their livelihoods and their well-being,” Cilento said.
The Bloomberg Administration’s Executive Order affects public sector workers including thousands who are members of unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
“It is just wrong to reverse course on a policy that has worked for the people of this city for more than a century with virtually no discussion or notice, particularly when this action questionably involves one city official unilaterally taking power from another. We have demonstrated a willingness to work with this administration, but that requires dialogue. On this matter, there was none. That is no way to do business and it is no way to govern,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades of Greater New York.
Controlling the prevailing wage is a backwards move in a time when economic recovery is just beginning to trickle into the building and construction trades. Perhaps worse is that Bloomberg will not recognize previously signed contracts, a dangerous precedent to set.
Mike Bilello, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the NYC District Council of Carpenters, said the Mayor’s decision was an attack on all working people in the city. “As we’re just starting to recover from an economic crisis, now is not the time to create a system that cuts the wages and benefits of working families. Even more egregious is the Mayor has said he will not honor the contracts he previously signed, leaving more than 10,000 workers out in the cold.”
Joseph Colangelo, President of SEIU Local 246, said “with the stroke of a pen, Mayor Bloomberg has flushed down the toilet the process to determine the wages and benefits for prevailing wage employees. This is an attack on Labor the likes of which the City has never seen.”
Weakening the prevailing wage is an invitation for contractors to hire illegal, exploitable workers. In a city like New York, where this practice is rampant, it is almost impossible to envision an outcome wherein such practices are not exacerbated.
It should be noted that Bloomberg supports raising the minimum wage.