May 29, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The de Blasio administration is hitting back at organized labor groups this week after the New York State AFL-CIO and New York City Central Labor Council both lambasted Hizzoner’s plan to extend the 421-a tax abatement without also including a prevailing wage mandate for construction workers, and calling the move a “slap in the face” to hardworking men and women.
Organized labor’s criticism directly challenges the mayor’s often cited mission to combat income inequality by basically saying that, among other things, an important opportunity to create solid middle class jobs with higher wages and benefits, is being missed in favor of further tax breaks for wealthy affordable housing developers.
But on Thursday, de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell said that the mayor’s 421-a plan would double the amount of affordable housing while also boosting the number of available good jobs.
“This mayor and administration have proven themselves ardent supporters of working people and the labor movement — nobody can argue that isn’t the case with a straight face,” Norvell said.
The mayor's spokesperson went on to warn that efforts favored in Albany to extend the 421-a tax abatement in its present form, would result in an “indefensible outcome.”
“Anyone seeking to preserve the status quo is fighting for fewer prevailing wage jobs and less of the affordable housing New Yorkers desperately need,” Norvell said. “If 421-a is simply extended as-is, as some are seeking up in Albany, there will be no prevailing wage construction jobs, far fewer building service workers making prevailing wages and no progress on affordable housing for tens of thousands in desperate need.”
In a statement issued earlier in the week, New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “It is deeply disappointing that the mayor is choosing not to recognize the importance of creating solid middle class jobs with fair wages for construction workers on 421-a projects. The City of New York should be supporting prevailing wages for all workers, particularly on affordable housing projects that give tax breaks to wealthy developers.”
In his statement, NYC Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said that all working New Yorkers deserve middle class wages, benefits, and access to affordable housing.
“The city's decision to exclude workers from earning higher wages and other benefits of an improved 421-a program is a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who have helped to build our city,” Alvarez said. “If we are serious about combatting income inequality, then our government must work to address the needs of all workers. Instead of focusing on tax breaks for the wealthy, our city must prioritize the creation of middle class jobs for all working people."
Hector Figueroa, head of 32BJ, said that his union of property service workers supports the mayor's proposed 421-a extension with "increased requirments for affordable housing and good jobs for building service workers."
"We have always strongly advocated that publicly subsidized developments must provide good jobs," Figueroa said in a statement. "That is why we strongly support the principle of prevailing wage protections for all workers and hope that construction unions and the real estate industry can come to an agreement that provides good jobs for all workers and more affordable housing for New York City's working families."
Construction worker advocates continue to challenge the administration on the city’s ongoing reliance on developers who have historically been charged with outrageous worker abuses and wage theft.