CWA victories in New York State budget
New York State finally passed a new budget last weekend – with $220 billion the biggest in its history - and we wanted to update you about our accomplishments in the budget.
1. BROADBAND: We won all 4 of our major demands regarding the historic $1.6 billion in state and Federal dollars for broadband.
LABOR STANDARDS: Requires applicants for public funding to have high workplace safety standards and a skilled workforce
FIBER PREFERENCE: Prioritization of networks that are capable of speeds of 1 gigabyte up and down
PREQUALIFICATION: requires any applicant for broadband buildout grant to demonstrate to the state that it is competent to do the job
PREVAILING WAGE: Ensures that good union employers, like ours, don’t get undercut by low-road subcontractors
(We also need to push Verizon to apply for as many different buildout projects as possible!)
An important note on prevailing wage: Currently, due to litigation that took place between 1997 and 2000, the prevailing wage for publicly funded “telecommunications” work in NYS is a rate based on IBEW “teledata electrician” contracts. That rate varies county by county, but is in the neighborhood of $38 an hour, with another $25 to $30 for benefits. In Monroe County, for example, the listed rate is $36 an hour. In Erie and parts of some of the surrounding counties, the rate is $37.49 going to $39.49 at the end of this May.
In New York City, the rate for city-subsidized (as opposed to state subsidized) “Telecommunication Worker” projects is our contractual rate, $47.03 per hour with $23.15 for benefits. The Comptroller’s office in NYC, which administers the City prevailing wage program, strongly favors matching the state and city prevailing wages, using our wage as the correct scale.
Two points to keep in mind:
1) We plan to file a challenge with the DoL asking it to revise the state prevailing wage and use our contract, around the state, to set the “Telecommunications” prevailing wage. To do so, we will have to demonstrate to the DoL that we have more unionized telecommunications workers under contract than any other union, which we believe to be the case, between Verizon and Frontier. We will be reaching out to you to help us put together data on what other unions, if any, represent workers in this sector in your regions.
2) However, even if our challenge fails, imposing a $36 to $39 prevailing wage on all the buildout work that will be subsidized under the state and federal infrastructure programs helps to level the playing field for Verizon. Under the Cuomo broadband grant program, the work was not covered by prevailing wage, and many contractors came in with bids based on paying workers $20 an hour. Having a prevailing wage on all the new work will make Verizon’s bids on the work much more competitive, even if the State DoL rejects our challenge.
We will keep you posted on this effort.
2. Funding Hospitals & Supporting Healthcare Workers: Partial Win, more work to be done.
CWA fought to win $1.35 billion dollars for financially distressed hospitals and more in discretionary funding. This money will be distributed based on a plan established by the Commissioner of the Department of Health. We will have to keep pushing to make sure our represented hospitals, which were badly hurt by the pandemic, get a fair share of this new funding to support hospitals designated to offset the impact of Covid-19.
The budget also included funding for up to $3,000 in bonuses for frontline healthcare workers. While we fought for a higher amount, we were pleased to win expanded eligibility to make sure more of our members were eligible for the bonuses.
3. Funding CUNY School of Labor & Museum: WIN!
The budget also included $3.5 million from the Executive and $1.5 million from the Legislature for the CUNY SLU plus another $3 million in funding for the NYC labor museum. The school is dedicated to expanding higher education opportunities for workers, developing the next generation of labor and community leaders, and serving the educational needs of the labor movement and the broader community.
Once again, these are major victories for CWA on the state level – which would not have happened without the hard work and advocacy of our members standing together. CWA members made hundreds of phone calls, sent thousands of emails, rallied and lobbied to make this happen. But our work is not done – and we have to ensure we stay vigilant when it comes to the implementation of these accomplishments.
We plan to send an email to NYS members later today regarding this good news. In the next weeks, we will share flyers and other materials so you can share this with your members.