March 19, 2020
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12224
Honorable Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader
New York State Senate
907 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
Honorable Carl E. Heastie, Speaker
New York State Assembly
932 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12248
Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie:
The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting all New Yorkers with an alarming and uncertain future, creating challenges in everyday life. This global disaster has no preference or propensity for any industry or economic class. We know, however, that those with the least resources, already facing the steepest challenges will be hardest hit.
We understand that you are aware of our vulnerable population and considering ways to mitigate the effects of this pandemic. That’s why we’re very troubled by reports and suggestions that expanding prevailing wage to private projects receiving economic assistance is being considered as part of the state budget.
Last year, our Black and Latino construction workforce made themselves known to lawmakers through job site surveys showing that in over 130 job sites, out of 14,000 construction workers, 95% of us are Black or Latino, living right here in New York City. That is just a representative sample. The real story is this: The construction industry has given us a future and a path to the middle class. Our workers are buying homes and raising families in what can only be described as a re-telling of the American story. This means everything to us. Why then, would we take this most uncertain time to upend, rattle, and extinguish this momentum?
This industry is not only vital to thousands of our city residents, but it is also in process, in contribution, and result, by every measure an essential service. From the infrastructural improvements to the dependent small businesses, it creates to livelihoods and lifestyle improvements it brings to our citizens.
This industry is an essential service by every part of the definition of the term. Construction is and should be considered an essential service and excluded from the Governor’s Executive Order.
The reports all say that we are in an economic freefall. A notion that was far from our minds only two weeks prior. We face devastating uncertainty right now, while our lawmakers consider this extreme measure, helpful to so few in a time we all now consider our history. Expanding prevailing wage was already a bad choice then. Today, expanding prevailing wage will lay waste to the hopes and dreams of construction workers, small business owners, MWBE’s and our own state economy just emerging from a global recession.
All of us need some hope at this time. This is not politics as usual and we know you understand that. Let’s not set our future up for failure. This is no time for extreme measures when we don’t yet fully understand the effects. What we do understand is quite enough. We understand that our people need to believe in a bright future. We need to believe, and we need to know we’ll get back to work and continue this American story.
New York is leading the country in the immediate response to this global disaster. While we’re on the right track, let’s set our goals a little farther. Let’s leave the thousands of upwardly aspiring workers and their families, all hard-working New Yorkers, with something to believe in.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Advocacy at Construction Workforce Project