New York, NY – Within a few short months State Senator Luis Sepúlveda has done an about-face in regards to the Public Works Bill [S1947].
Three months ago, members of labor union Laborers Local 79, which represents construction workers, rallied against Sepúlveda outside his office in the Bronx for not supporting the bill and on Thursday he was rallying with them to push it through in the state Legislature.
Initially, Sepúlveda had concerns that the bill might not support Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise initiatives [MWBE], but Local 79 members emphasized that many union and nonunion workers, especially in his 32nd District, are immigrants and minorities and would get a boost in wages as a result of the legislation.
“Many upcoming development projects in the Bronx and elsewhere in New York are receiving state taxpayer-funded support in the form of subsidies or abatements,” said Sepúlveda. “The public works bill would ensure that all construction workers on these projects, regardless of immigration status, would be able to earn current prevailing wages of more than $40 per hour and gain a real path to economic security and the middle class.”
Currently, the bill has 33 co-sponsors and it does not just support a wage boost, but also considers other supplemental factors in contracts.
“Latino and Hispanic laborers are often the most vulnerable to wage theft, exploitation, injury, and even death on construction sites,” said Local 79 Business Agent Steve Andujar. “For many laborers, this vital legislation will not only boost wages, but also help create safer working conditions and better protections against wage theft.”
The bill also wants affirmative language in contracts that would trigger MWBE participation so that they too can prosper, according to Andujar.
“As part of our growing partnership with Senator Sepulveda, we are committed to lifting up minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs),” Andujar. “We want MWBEs to have all the tools they need to flourish and thrive.”
Although, not a part of the rally on Jan. 16, lead co-sponsor state Sen. Jessica Ramos has continuously worked steadfastly on the bill and had made changes to it to assuage any concerns surrounding it in order to get it to pass.
“I made a commitment to meet with stakeholders in order to make important updates to the bill,” said Ramos. “We’re working diligently to incorporate changes as those conversations continue.”
The Business Council of New York State, a statewide business and industry association, continues to strongly oppose the bill, however, because of worries that the legislation would increase the costs on developments throughout the Empire State.
The Business Council also takes issue with pre-planning/survey work, cleanup work and custom fabrication work like masonry paneling, woodwork, cases, cabinets, or counters, and the fabrication of plumbing, heating, cooling, ventilation, or exhaust duct system work for being under the umbrella of construction.
For Andujar, the bill is about building a vibrant and inclusive New York where minorities and immigrants are lifted up economically.
“Every champion of immigrant rights, racial justice, and economic justice in the Bronx and throughout New York should join our coalition to pass this bill,” said Andujar. “We’re glad that Senator Sepulveda is standing with us. We urge all of his colleagues in state government to follow his lead.”