NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The state’s Prevailing Wage Law is wreaking havoc on North Salem's finances, Supervisor Warren Lucas told State Sen. Greg Ball Tuesday. Ball appeared at the Town Board meeting as part of his continuing town hall tour.
Under the new state law, public works contractors and subcontractors must pay the prevailing rate for wages and benefits to all workers. The wage rate is established by the state Department of Labor on a county-by-county basis.
“A garbage man in North Salem now gets $90 per hour,” said Lucas. “The garbage company is willing to charge us the [lower] Putnam rate, but when I followed up with the state, they told me to speak to the union leader in Long Island City. It seems like the unions are controlling every contract.”
“It’s killing us,” Lucas continued. “Look at the Peach Lake sewer district, for example. We raised a $5 million bond, but now almost half of that will have to go to wage increases. It’s doubling the cost of our sewer district for the people there.”
The new law is hard on contractors and subcontractors, Lucas said, mentioning a contractor who mistakenly failed to increase wages as of July 2. “The Department of Labor won’t let him bid on anything till this is straightened out. I know of three contractors who’ve gone out of business so far. There are contractors who won’t even bid on municipal contracts because of this.”
“Then there’s the MWBE [minority- and women-owned business] law. Twenty percent of contracts are supposed to go to MWBEs,” said Lucas. “I had three bids for trees at Peach Lake – $15,000, $17,000 and $30,000. The $30,000 bidder was a woman, so I was obliged to accept it. I have nothing against women, but the laws are killing competition. It’s appalling.”
“Aren’t there any exceptions for small towns?” asked Councilman Stephen Bobolia.
Lucas also commented on the paperwork the new laws generate. “There must be thousands of employees just going over papers at the Department of Labor.”
Ball responded, “There is no magic wand to solve this, but now is the time to grapple. I’ll let you know what I can do.”