Fix Our Broken Public Works Law

The New York State Constitution clearly requires prevailing rate be paid to workers on public works projects. This basic principle is intended to ensure that constitutional provisions protecting the labor rights of its citizens are respected and that taxpayer dollars are used to create meaningful jobs that strengthen our communities and economy. 

Over the years constant ideological attacks on prevailing rate by well-funded corporate interests have resulted in legal, regulatory and legislative changes that have eroded the intent of the state’s constitutional requirement of prevailing rate. 

Attempts to exempt projects that include private investment in publicly owned and/or financed facilities and a myriad of other distractions designed to deflect prevailing rate requirements have been worked into the process. This often creates confusion and frustration for workers and employers alike. 

We need to restore the spirit and intent of the New York State Constitution and ensure that all projects receiving taxpayer resources are defined as “public works,” thus restoring the law to its original meaning and purpose. This will stabilize local economies and prevent unscrupulous contractors from exploiting workers by driving down pay. Furthermore, it will create additional apprenticeship opportunities, creating a path to the middle class for many more New Yorkers. 

A recent report by the Cornell Labor Institute clearly shows this will not only help working men and women get better paying jobs, but will help create safer workplaces, ensure quality workmanship on public projects and hold contractors and developers accountable.

                                                                                                      Mario Cilento, President