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Will prevailing wage ever prevail in Albany?

Assemblyman Phil Ramos and union leaders and workers

Assemblyman Phil Ramos and union leaders and workers rallying for state legislation requiring the prevailing wage be paid on building projects that get tax breaks at the Long Island Federation of Labor in Wyndanch in March. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Now what?

That’s the question developers and labor leaders are asking after the legislative session ended in Albany without a deal on prevailing wage legislation, the higher hourly rate usually negotiated in collective-bargaining agreements.

Long Island’s builders are breathing a sigh of relief because they were worried that a bill that would require the higher wages on projects that receive public funds would stifle development across the region. Labor leaders, meanwhile, consider the collapse of the deal – which seemed like it was nearly done as of Wednesday morning – a big loss.

Matthew Aracich, who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, compared the last few days in Albany to being in a boxing ring.

“The next thing you know you wake up, and someone hit you with a punch that you didn’t see coming,” Aracich said. “When session ends like this … it’s as definite as death.”

But both sides said the end of the legislative session doesn’t mark the end to their talks, or their efforts to compromise. “We will not leave any stone unturned in order to secure more work for our members,” Aracich said. “We will work on every project we can get a hold of.”

And Mitch Pally, who heads the Long Island Builders Institute, said he plans to talk with Aracich soon to find ways that would encourage more local developers to use more unionized labor. Some builders, Pally said, are “more cooperative” in their efforts to negotiate with the unions than others.

Pally said he’s hoping such discussions could lead to a broader agreement -- without the State Legislature’s involvement, adding that there are similar discussions planned in New York City, too.“Most people would prefer to have a negotiated agreement between the parties than one imposed upon them by Albany,” Pally said.

Especially when Albany can’t do it.

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