Op-Ed | This legislative session saw many ‘wins’ for hard working New Yorkers

NYS Gov. Hochul at a desk with American flag behind her talking congestion pricing
Gov. Kathy Hochul
Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

With the 2024 legislative session coming to a close, we should celebrate the wins for hard working New Yorkers that can build a solid foundation for bolstering our middle class, and our overall economy.  While some of these policies were achieved through the State budget process, a few items still need approval from Governor Hochul before the end of the year. 

Let me start with this year’s successful accomplishments that the Building Trades were pleased to see move forward with the help of the Governor, Mayor Adams and our Democratic partners in the State Legislature.

Project Labor Agreements, Enhanced Labor Standards

The State budget included legislation to ensure that the State University of New York utilize project labor agreements on all of its campuses, which will provide significant job opportunities for our members and drive accessible and effective workforce development in the construction industry.  Another important milestone secured was the integration of additional labor standards for clean energy development, including expanded prevailing wage and project labor agreements on solar projects, offshore wind supply chain projects and transmission. This will be critical as New York continues to greenlight major clean energy projects to meet the goals set out by the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and establish nationwide standards for clean energy transitions.

Notably, a project labor agreement was signed to turn the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal into an offshore wind hub, ensuring union tradesmen and tradeswomen can seize the opportunities created by this work in an environment with strong safety standards, family-sustaining wages, and good benefits.

NYC Workforce Housing

The Building Trades also announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Mayor Eric Adams and Cirrus Workforce Housing Advisors to fund and build $400 million in workforce housing in New York City utilizing union pension funds, pursuant to a historic memorandum of understanding that was signed with the Mayor in March. This partnership will lead to the development of affordable, environmentally sustainable workforce housing in underserved neighborhoods for essential workers throughout the city. Under negotiated project labor agreements, these development and redevelopment projects will generate thousands of accessible and stable union careers and contribute to the easing of the current housing shortage.

We are hopeful that these projects will begin to break ground as we head into the second half of the year.

New Mitchell-Lama, 485-x, Housing Production

Finally, tradesmen and tradeswomen working on certain housing projects throughout the state and in New York City will receive fair and family-sustaining wages. For projects under New Mitchell-Lama, an approach that the Building Trades have been openly supportive of, prevailing wage will be applied.

As for 485-X, we see significant changes from its predecessor, most notably with the addition of set wages, which deservedly increase pay rates, as compared to the previous averaged wage structure. This measure makes possible a true enforcement of wage standards upon developers, supports workforce development necessary to adequately address housing needs, and opens more pathways for construction workers to pursue the middle class, support their families and reinvest in their communities.

Looking Ahead

As the legislature did its work in Albany, major new projects were approved, including the new soccer stadium in Queens, along with a newly revealed collaboration between New York City, New York State, Port Authority and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to transform the Howland Hook Marine Terminal.

However, as the mega projects, and others of smaller scale advance, we must be sure those that should operate with a prevailing wage do so, making our end-of-session legislative priorities very important.  Senate Majority Leader Andre Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie presided over a strong legislative session for the Building Trades, as a transparency bill to implement an online certified prevailing wage payroll system passed both houses with the help of Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblyman Harry Bronson.  Additionally, workers cleaning up contaminated brownfields will have the opportunity to receive a prevailing wage, as legislation sponsored by Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblyman Bronson passed both houses in June.  Brownfield tax credits have long been touted as an economic stimulus for New York State, yet provide no guaranteed benefits to the workers who risk their health and safety performing the remediation on these toxic sites.  We look forward to working with the Governor to getting these critical pieces of legislation implemented into law.

Lastly, we remain confident that a positive solution can be found to address the MTA funding gap and ensure that vital capital projects are able to break ground.

While the first half of this year has come with its challenges, it is important to acknowledge the progress that’s been made in key areas. The Building Trades are encouraged by these accomplishments and remain committed to advocating on behalf of our members and all hardworking New Yorkers to ensure that middle class careers are continually created through these initiatives and that labor standards, workplace safety, and fair wages are a top priority.

Gary LaBarbera is the President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.