The city's biggest construction contractors are attacking proposed city legislation that would mandate paid sick leave, fearing it will offer a costly handout to some of the highest-paid unionized workers in the city, including thousands of carpenters, electricians and plumbers.
The sick-leave law's backers say the bill is aimed at low-wage workers who receive little or no time-off benefits. Yet contractors complain that language in the legislation that cites employees "in the building and construction industries" would add additional time onto already-generous paid leave for their employees—enabling them in essence to double-dip. "This is being promoted as a law to help the busboy or the retail worker," said Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association. "But it's also helping unions who already have great benefits."
The legislation would force contractors to pay for five more days of time off for their workers, a cost that would average about $2,500 per employee and potentially $250 million annually across the industry. Contractors charge that the added burden would push up costs at a time when the unionized construction industry is already losing market share to far cheaper nonunion competitors, as more developers seek to save money.
"This is only going to add to the burden of using union construction," said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association. "In the end, it's something that is going to get passed along to the developers."
A spokesman for the Building Construction and Trades Council, which represents the industry's major unions, declined to comment.
Ms. Richardson and other representatives of union contractors said the city's more than 50 construction unions, which together count about 100,000 members, currently receive three weeks of paid time off per year per employee on average—a far cry from the disadvantaged worker the bill is proposing to help.