Construction unions, housing activists press New York mayor on affordable apartment projects

Unions ready to accept lower wages in unusual concession

A group of New York City construction unions have joined forces with affordable housing activists to pressure Mayor Bill de Blasio to require organized labor on construction of 80,000 lower-cost apartment units.

The unions will support a requirement that 50% of the new units be set aside for lower- and middle-income residents. Unions say they are willing to accept wages that are 40% lower than union pay scale on affordable-housing projects in certainneighborhoods. These projects would include new workers with less experience than existing union members. Many of the less experienced workers would be drawn from local communities.

Cooperation between unions and housing advocates, who have often been at odds, is an unusual step. Affordable housing projects have typically been built without union labor because higher wages have often meant fewer units could be built.

Construction union leaders have met with de Blasio administration officials about using organized labor as the mayor’s affordable-housing plan is developed. City officials said significant details remain to be worked through, though.


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