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AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH BEGINS, NEW YORK CITY AND UPSTATE FAITH

LEADERS ANNOUNCE OPPOSITION TO STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL THAT


WOULD REDEFINE PUBLIC WORKS IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY,
CITING CONCERNS ABOUT IMPACTS ON MINORITY WORKERS AND BUSINESS
OWNERS IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Faith leaders of the 400 Foundation in New York City today joined a number of other faith
leaders from upstate communities to announce opposition to a New York State budget proposal
that would redefine “public works” and expand construction prevailing wage mandates to
include many private construction projects in New York.

The coalition of faith leaders and clergy highlighted their serious concerns regarding loss of
jobs for minority workers and MWBEs, noting that these concerns have still not been
addressed by State officials in any discussions around the prevailing wage proposal. Even as
this year’s prevailing wage proposal includes changes such as greater carveouts for affordable
housing and requirements for disclosure of data regarding union apprenticeship programs,
these changes still do not address the underlying concerns with the plan.

To that end, the 400 Foundation and upstate faith leaders also strongly urged State lawmakers
to pass existing legislation (S.6456/A.8285) regarding disclosure of racial diversity data of
workers who are actually employed on publicly funded construction projects – not just
apprentices, but actual full-time workers – before any further discussion takes place regarding
the prevailing wage proposal.

This all comes as faith leaders, lawmakers and millions of New Yorkers recognize the start of
Black History Month by honoring the legacy of civil rights leaders and those in communities
of color who have risen above discrimination and other challenges to advance the cause of
justice.

Faith leaders joining this announcement include:

Rev. Reginald Bachus Rev. Marlowe Washington Bishop George M. Jones


The 400 Foundation Seneca United Methodist The Apostolic Church of
New York, NY Church Jesus Christ
Rochester, NY Syracuse, NY

Rev. Dr. Carl Washington Rev. Corey B. Gibson Rev. Frank Bostic
President Calvary Baptist Church Pilgrim Missionary Baptist
Empire Baptist Missionary Buffalo, NY Church
State Convention of New Buffalo, NY
York, Inc.

These faith leaders jointly released the following joint statement: “After a historic 2019
Legislative Session, New York State officials are once again poised to advance a truly
progressive agenda. But this prevailing wage proposal would move New York in the wrong
direction by taking good jobs and opportunities away from workers of color and MWBEs in
New York’s construction industry. We appreciated that this issue was not included in last
year’s budget – and our position this year remains unchanged, even as we understand some
adjustments have been made to this proposal being advanced this year. Any effort to hastily
include this prevailing wage proposal in the state budget would ignore the needs of thousands
of black and brown New Yorkers and disregard the concerns raised by civil rights leaders. A
a better alternative for advancing racial equity and economic opportunities in the
construction industry, State officials should focus on passing legislation introduced last year
by Assemblywoman Inez Dickens and Senator Kevin Parker that would require developers of
publicly funded construction projects to disclose data on the diversity of their construction
workforce. That data disclosure legislation would represent a strong, progressive step
forward.

The proposal to expand prevailing wage – which is far higher than the median wage rate in
construction – is largely being driven by Building Trade unions. However, the majority of
opportunities for locally based workers of color and MWBEs are found not in union
construction, but instead in the open shop, or non-union, side of the industry. This means that a
prevailing wage expansion would very likely result in significant job losses for non-unionized
workers of color and an increasingly unfair playing field for MWBE contractors.

Industry surveys show that approximately three-quarters of open shop construction workers in
New York City are Black or Hispanic and actually live in one of the five boroughs. The same
cannot be said of union construction workers, who are more likely to be white and live outside
New York City, in places like New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Additionally, State
officials and building trade unions have still not made any site-specific data available regarding
the racial diversity of workers on prevailing wage construction sites throughout New York.

That is why these faith leaders continue to support the legislation by Assemblywoman Dickens
and Senator Parker (S.6456/A.8285) that would require developers to disclose data regarding
the racial diversity of construction workers on all projects that receive public funding.

The issues regarding to MWBE contractors are quite similar. Many emerging MWBE
contractors are small businesses, and the greatest obstacle they face in today’s industry is an
inability to compete on large projects that carry inflated labor costs – often in the form of
prevailing wage.

In fact, the New York City Disparity Study, published in 2018, suggested that of the almost
$15B spent on construction between 2007-2015, black firms only made up $515M or less than
3.5% of the total value of the industry’s contracts. As recently as 2015, black firms made up less
than 1.5%. Expanding prevailing wage mandates to more construction projects would only
exacerbate that problem by making it impossible for small MWBE firms to compete for many of
these contracts.

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