Workers on site (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)
Recently, Patrick Purcell, Jr. of the New York State Labourers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes author of an editorial regarding the Road Excavation Quality Assurance Act (REQAA) and its potential to positively impact the environment, the economy and the workforce. The room — “An opportunity to boost the environment, economy and workers– is worrying because the authors paint an inaccurate picture, hiding the detail hidden in the legislation, the use of project labor contracts, which is central to what Mr Purcell’s organization is arguing.
The full story paints a very different picture and will likely change how readers view the REQAA. Mr. Purcell supports this policy and the PLA because it gives work to those he represents: a very small number of workers compared to New York State’s entire workforce.
He claims that the REQAA provides significant economic benefits and affirms that the workers affected by this bill “will have the financial resources to frequent the businesses and restaurants of their hometown”. This is where Mr. Purcell omitted important details.
The REQAA includes language in the bill that encourages the use of a project labor agreement on these projects. A PLA is a pre-employment collective agreement that requires the hiring of unionized workers. The issue here is not the employment of unionized workers, but the required use of them instead of opening up projects to the entire New York State construction workforce. .
Over 70% of the construction industry workforce in our state is not affiliated with a union. They work for open shop contractors, the majority being small businesses. The REQAA that Mr. Purcell is so fond of, includes language that discriminates against the vast majority of the state’s construction labor pool by not allowing their employers to use them on projects under these provisions.
How can a policy that tramples businesses and prevents the majority of the workforce from working be good for the state economy? The authors of the editorial omitted very important details in pushing this legislation.
And, if it’s not bad enough that the REQAA is burying businesses even further, consider this: when the labor pool is limited to less than 30% of the available workforce, but more workers are needed, they will be brought in from out of state. It does not help a single worker or a family in New York.
Additionally, the REQAA will end up hurting New York ratepayers who are already feeling the brunt of some of the highest utility costs in recent years. Consumers will pay even more for public services because, as studies show, the going wage increases the cost of construction by up to 25%. It’s time to be honest: it’s the reality when we force utility companies to pay more, they pass the extra cost on to ratepayers.
Instead of focusing on harmful policies, the New York government should find a way to cut costs to taxpayers. This can be done by reducing the taxes we all have to pay on natural gas, broadband, cell phone service, electricity, etc.
Our elected officials have a responsibility to protect New Yorkers from harmful legislation while improving their quality of life. The REQAA does the opposite. It discriminates against most contractors in the state, prevents hundreds of thousands of workers and their families from benefiting from the construction jobs their taxes pay for, and raises the cost of living in New State. York. Our elected leaders should run away from the REQAA.
Brian Sampson is president of the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, part of a national trade association for the construction industry established in 1950 and founded on the philosophy of the merit workshop. On Twitter @abcempirestate.