TODAY'S PAPER
51° Good Evening
51° Good Evening
OpinionLetters

Letters: The debate over a prevailing wage in New York

Union leaders and workers rallying for state legislation

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 on March 21, 2019. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Newsday editorial board is recklessly misinformed in claiming that a prevailing wage mandate on state-funded projects could hurt the business community and local economy [“Don’t rush a new law on prevailing wage,” Editorial, March 15].

Deep-pocketed developers want you to believe Long Island development will grind to a halt if New York passes such legislation so they can increase profits by exploiting workers with poverty-level wages.

Long Island isn’t cheap. Area-standard wages allow the middle class to not just survive, but thrive. When workers thrive, so does the economy. Mandating prevailing wages on subsidized projects would generate up to about $7 million annually in additional sales tax revenue, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington.

By mandating wage standards on publicly funded projects, 16 states lead New York in ensuring that taxpayers receive the greatest return on investment. Businesses still profit, but not at a cost to local economies.

Opponents aren’t mom-and-pop businesses. They’re major companies that benefit from taxpayer-funded subsidies, often using out-of-state contractors to save money.

There is tremendous support for a comprehensive definition of public work from lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and four of our Long Island state senators who have co-sponsored the legislation.

Prevailing wages don’t kill jobs, they create good ones.

Steve Flanagan,

  Melville

Editor’s note: The writer is business manager and secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local 66.

At 3.7 percent, Long Island’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in New York State, but the number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Many residents do not have access to great jobs. Rather than address the problem, the State Legislature is considering a prevailing-wage expansion that could exacerbate the situation and hurt working families.

If passed, the wage expansion would require projects receiving state funds to pay union wages. This would force private developers to lay off workers and shrink the pool of already-limited jobs.

The ramifications for local residents are twofold. With a prevailing-wage expansion, middle-class families would lose access to well-paying construction jobs and their benefits, and the ability of developers to build affordable housing would be curtailed.

Ultimately, expanding prevailing wage requirements would only hike construction costs, reduce job opportunities and hurt workers.

Clark Peña,

  Manhattan

Editor’s note: The writer is director of advocacy for the Construction Workforce Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Higher taxes, no thanks to Rep. Zeldin

On March 13, Rep. Lee Zeldin spoke of removing the federal cap on deductions for state and local taxes from the GOP’s 2017 tax law because it is hurting his constituents. This is true, but he excused himself because he voted against the bill (perhaps forgetting he voted for earlier legislation to enable the tax bill). He said that overall, the law is good for the economy, and he blamed New York for our high taxes, saying New Yorkers need to “look in the mirror.”

He should look at his own party. To pay for cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, the GOP increased the taxes of the middle class by, along with the SALT cap, eliminating crucial deductions: the personal exemption, union dues, unreimbursed employee expenses, tax preparation fees, interest on home-equity loans and more.

On April 15, I will pay nearly seven times more than the year before in federal taxes. Might these higher taxes bring more jobs and services to our district or address climate change? Unlikely, since the deficit and income inequality are rising while economic growth is slowing. Republicans perpetrated a fraud and stuck us with the bill. Many voters weren’t aware in 2018. They are now.

Barbara Weber-Floyd,

  Westhampton Beach

Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the East End Action Network, which opposed Zeldin’s 2018 candidacy, and of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee.

Unfair portrayal of candidate O’Rourke

Kathleen Parker’s column “Youthful folly by White House hopeful” [Opinion, March 20] was a slick attempt to paint a cartoon portrait of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

Parker’s words about his arm movements were a written picture of Donald Trump’s bizarre mocking of a disabled reporter in 2016. Describing his “lurching pogo-stick histrionics” as manic, and calling him a delinquent minor leaguer, do not speak well of her self-described maternal instinct. Her attempt to whitewash her criticism while skillfully belittling this vibrant young man is shameful.

Susan Snizek,

  Riverhead

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Columns