Street construction (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
We have at times been led to believe that legislation can typically only fall in one of the following categories: environmental improvement, economic boost, or labor-friendly. In fact, we have actually seen instances where this is true and the goals outlined within a bill are at odds with others.
But New York has an opportunity this session to support and pass legislation that clearly encompasses all three: the Roadway Excavation Quality Assurance Act (REQAA). Long bill name, huge potential impact.
The REQAA would require that workers be paid prevailing wage when crews have to cut open a street to do utility work. And attaching prevailing wage to this type of job, which is very common, is far more consequential than you might think. First, prevailing wage means trained, highly-skilled workers are doing the job – workers whose skill-sets ensure timely and efficient repairs, so you’re not without power, heat, cooling, etc. for extended periods of time. If these skilled workers are making repairs to a damaged utility line, they would be able to stop a gas leak more quickly.
Better for the environment, better for everyone paying a utility company for service.
Importantly, paying prevailing wage means the workers doing these dangerous jobs are paid a livable, family-sustaining wage. In short, they can afford to feed their families, live a solid middle-class life, and have the financial resources to patronize their hometown shops and restaurants.
Better for a deserving workforce, a shot in the arm for the economy.
It’s important to recognize that New York’s energy landscape is evolving, and the job market for people who work in this field is, too. Passing the REQAA would be a prime example of making sure that as the energy industry is advancing, it takes the workers with it.
The REQAA is an opportunity for labor, environmentalists, and economists to fight together for a better future for New York State. Don’t you think we owe this to all New Yorkers?
Patrick Purcell, Jr. is the Executive Director of the New York State Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust. Assemblymember Karines Reyes proudly represents the 87th District of New York State. On Twitter @KarinesReyes87 & @NYSTriFunds.