New York Governor Kathy Hochul celebrated her newly minted Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin’s legislation in a Friday Sept. 17 rally at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
The bill seeks to induce buildings in New York City that have obtained a tax abatement to pay their building workers a prevailing wage.
Drafted during Benjamin’s time as a State Senator and in partnership with unions including 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the law is designed to raise the wages of more than 2,000 residential building doorpersons, cleaning, and maintenance workers to the industry average for the profession.
“My father is a retired member of 32BJ, a building service worker in Manhattan,” Benjamin said. “If [my parents] didn’t have the salaries and the abilities that they had, then I wouldn’t have been able to study [I wouldn’t] be standing up here as Lieutenant Governor. This is how the labor movement works!”
Hochul signed the measure on Labor Day but celebrated the signature along U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Friday to underscore the power of organized labor in the City.
“My immigrant grandparents came and only had good jobs because they were part of the union movement,” Hochul said. “I will never forget what labor unions did for my family, lifting them out of poverty and living in trailer parks. Ultimately, I’ll never forget what that did for me personally.”
Local officials and union leaders shared their satisfaction with the bill, and were given support by union members who stand to benefit directly from the legislation.
“I’m [constantly] overworked and overwhelmed and making just above minimum wage,” said one building worker at the rally. “It’s tough to live in New York or minimum wage. It’s difficult to provide for my family. It’s difficult to save money for a rainy day, it’s difficult to afford safe housing.”
The vast majority, more than 95%, of the impacted workers serve in buildings in Manhattan south of 96th Street.
A 32BJ SEIU spokesperson could not be reached for comment in time for publication in regards to ensuring the remainder of NYC’s building workers earn the prevailing wage.