New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul gave labor unions a present this week.

The governor signed a package of bills, to ensure workplace safety and prevent wage theft. Hochul’s new legislation will help establish a speed violation monitoring system at work sites, hold contractors accountable for not paying employees the wages they’re owed, extend Shared Work Benefits while making it mandatory to pay a prevailing wage to service employees at condos and high-end co-ops.

Legislation A.3350-A/S.2766-C holds contractors on construction projects responsible for wages for employees that should’ve been provided by their subcontractors. Currently, construction contractors aren’t liable for wages of their subcontractors’ employees. The bill goes into effect 120 days after Hochul signs it into law.

“What I’m talking about is there are unscrupulous people out there who take advantage of others and do not pay them what they’re entitled to in defiance of our laws,” said Hochul during her media briefing on Labor Day. “And in some cases, it’s a subcontractor on a project. So, we needed to have accountability. We need to make sure that those people are. It’s not their fault if an unscrupulous subcontractor walks off a job or doesn’t pay them what they should or tries to pay them under the table. So, our contractors will be engaged in this, being held responsible for what happens with the subcontractors. So I’m making sure we sign that into law as well.”

Robert Bonanza, business manager of the Leaders at Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York, stated that his unions’ constant lobbying and advocating had paid off.

“This historic legislation will end the race to the bottom we’re seeing in construction, where contractors subcontract much of their work to smaller contractors, absolving them of liability for stolen or unpaid wages and leaving workers with little recourse,” said Bonanza.

New York City District Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Geiger said, “For years, exploited workers have been ripped off by greedy contractors with nowhere to turn. This legislation will ensure every construction worker in New York is protected from wage theft.”

Legislation S.4682-B/A.485-B (sponsored by New York State Assembly Member Latoya Joyner and New York State Senator Jamaal Bailey) establishes a program that implements speed violation monitoring systems in work zones using photo devices, notices of liability and adjudicates traffic infractions using photo monitoring devices.

“There is no question that the work zone speed camera legislation will help keep our highway workers and New York’s motorists safe,” stated Frank Marchese Jr., executive director, New York State Laborers’ Health & Safety Trust Fund. “Work zone intrusions by speeding drivers occur far too often, and by signing this legislation into law, our elected officials are taking an enormous step forward to help ensure highway workers return home safely at night. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic workers at luxury condos and co-ops continue to travel from their homes to work in buildings despite the danger they faced every day. Legislation S.6350-A/A.7434-A) requires these workers to be paid a prevailing wage to building service employees who work at any co-ops and condos that receive tax abatements under section 467a of the tax law. It applies to all building with the average unit assessed value of more than $60,000 unless these buildings have less than 30 units. The legislation also makes affidavits of these payments accessible to the public should they need to be used in court and allows the State Department of Labor the ability to investigate any allegations of wage theft.

“This is a momentous day for over 2,000 building service workers and their families who will finally start earning family-sustaining wages,” said SEIU Local 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “These luxury apartment buildings can afford to pay workers the prevailing wage, and frontline essential building service workers who risked their lives to keep New Yorkers safe deserve good pay and benefits for New Yorkers in the Shared Work Program put more money in working families’ pockets.”

Chris Sanchez, a porter at a luxury building on the West Side of Manhattan, stated that his salary put him in a position where he had to skip some medical emergencies due to finances and hasn’t gone to any checkups the entire pandemic.

“There have been many days when I skipped meals just to save a little money,” Sanchez said. “I haven’t seen a doctor in two years because my job doesn’t provide healthcare, and I can’t afford to pay for a health insurance plan. Earning the prevailing wage means I can provide for my family without sacrificing meals, and hopefully I can put some money aside to fulfill my dream of sending my son to college one day.”