With the COVID-19 crisis shaking our City’s economy to its core and is front and center once again. Exactly how much responsibility the U.S. government has to help Americans hurt by the pandemic, and whom to prioritize, has been a huge bone of contention in creating the first three stimulus and relief packages.
Pay fair wages and provide quality benefits
All jobs supported through an infrastructure package should pay decent wages and provide essential benefits, also set wage and benefit rates for contracted workers in the construction and service sector at existing market levels. Unfortunately this is not automatically applied to new spending programs. Moreover, too often, prevailing wage rates are set at levels that undercut high industry standards and sometimes even pay poverty wages.
Prevailing wage and benefit protections should apply to any future infrastructure spending. In addition, I will work to adopt reforms enacted by several cities and states to ensure that when significant numbers of workers in an industry join together in unions, the collectively bargained wage rates can become the prevailing wage rates.
Furthermore we need to raise the minimum wage floor for all recipients of infrastructure funds to $17.50 per hour and ensure that funded companies provide essential benefits such as paid sick leave, holidays and maternity leave. In funded projects were there are no union membership, prevailing wage rates will be applied as to sustain a family’s cost of living. Raising minimum pay and expanding benefits protections would build on the work of President Barack Obama, who established minimum wage and fringe protections for those working on all City funded contracts. Finally, I will work to enact protections to ensure that publicly supported workers receive fair scheduling protections, extended paid family and medical leave, and access to quality and affordable child care.
Prevent discrimination and enforce equal pay protections
All workers, no matter their race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or veteran status, should have access to jobs funded through an infrastructure package and should receive fair compensation from their employers.
As your elected representative I will work with my colleagues to ensure that there are accountable anti-discrimination reporting and enforcement for all recipients of infrastructure funds. In addition, I will work to mandate that the Attorney General’s office has autonomous oversite with Contract Compliance Programs—which is charged with enforcing these protections—at levels sufficient to support targeted investigations into sectors with significant pay disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, and other factors, as well as reviews of employee movement from entry- and mid-level jobs into higher-earning positions. Finally, I will work to ensure that a requirement for infrastructure contractors in providing workers with information about how much they are paid and affirm requirements mandating that each year, all employers provide the Clouncil with compensation data broken down by race and gender.
What Does This Mean to You?
COVID-19 has sparked a national recession that has left Americans from all walks of life reeling and has disproportionately affected communities of color. We as policymakers can help get New Yorkers back to work by supporting economic recovery through investment in critically needed public infrastructure but in order to maximize the benefits of this spending, we as policymakers must be intentional about ensuring that this investment creates good jobs that are available to all working New Yorkers. This can be done by requiring all private sector recipients of an infrastructure building contract to comply with a vigorous package of job quality standards. This will both help everyday New Yorkers move beyond the current crisis and foster widespread prosperity.