New York Laborers, Developers Scrap Over New Law

An article printed on June 2nd in the New York Times reveals an interesting debate going on within the state. The debate stems from a bill that is sitting in the house currently, which would require all developers who are building low income housing to pay their workers a prevailing wage, comparable to the going Union wage.

The developers of these low income housing units, who have mostly built housing for government housing projects, say that the legislation would hamper their ability to provide housing for those that need it. Given the economic downturn, and the potential for more people to turn to government subsidized housing, it would be inappropriate to force these developers to compete with union jobs.

Supporters of the bill and construction workers rights say that the bill would provide for better construction and a decent standard of living for those that build these housing units.

On the face of this issue, it seems a stark contrast between providing housing for those that need assistance in affording it, while also hamstringing workers by not paying them as much as other prevailing rates in the field- making it more likely that these individuals will have to take advantage of the low income housing options.

Another such concern is that if prevailing wages are required, the laborers would largely be made up of white union members, as opposed to the mostly black and Latino workers that are non union contractors.

This situation highlights the fragile balance between providing for the public good, while doing so at a low enough cost for developers. The interchange of money between developers, contractors and those that would eventually occupy the units are an example of the stresses of the concerns for labor, and the bottom line.