National Union Leaders Condemn Low-Wage Proposal by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Washington DC – The presidents of the AFL-CIO and North America’s Building Trades Unions today sharply condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 421a proposal, which expands a lucrative tax giveaway for wealthy developers while failing to require a standard of middle-class wages for working families.

“Mayor de Blasio has been traveling the country talking about income inequality as the country’s biggest problem,” said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions. “But when he goes back to New York and has an opportunity to do something meaningful to help working families, he sides with wealthy developers who helped underwrite his campaign.”

Mayor de Blasio’s 421a extension proposal won the immediate support of real estate developers, but was met with skepticism by tenants’ advocates and labor groups.[1]

The plan, which would extend the tax break from 25 years to 35 years, includes only marginal increases in affordability requirements for eligible projects.[2] Further, the proposal allows developers to charge rents that are near, or at, market rates in many neighborhoods, while still qualifying for the 421a tax break.[3]

Meanwhile, the mayor’s proposal makes no mention of requiring developers to pay their workers good wages.

“Since 2001, the labor movement has helped finance the construction of over 28,000 affordable housing units in New York City. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal is very disappointing given the proven track record of the labor movement in financing these affordable housing projects, all while paying good wages with benefits to the workers who built the units,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“It is very disappointing to see this harmful and misguided rhetoric coming from the mayor’s office, particularly at a time when we are seeing efforts to increase the wages of hardworking Americans undermined by reactionary forces in ultraconservative legislatures throughout the country. Mayor de Blasio fails to distinguish himself from those seeking to protect the status quo and make the reality of a middle-class life a total fantasy,” said McGarvey.

“The mayor’s 421a plan is just more of the same and values wealth over work in providing subsidies for wealthy developers, while telling working families to take a pay cut. Given his recent public relations campaign designed to espouse his version of progressive ideals for the world beyond his own jurisdiction, I would expect Mayor de Blasio, of all people, to understand that public subsidies should come with public responsibilities,” said McGarvey.