Westchester County IDA Approves New Local Hire Labor Policy
John Jordan | February 25, 2021
WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors earlier today (Feb. 25) unanimously approved a new local hire labor policy that will require incentivized project developers hire 85% of its construction workers from the local area; require its workers complete OSHA safety training; subcontractors be enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program and that all workers pass a drug screening prior to their hiring.
The new policy was the result of extensive negotiations between county government, the IDA, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc. in an initiative geared at ensuring local unionized labor work on development projects that secure incentive financing from the IDA. The building trades have complained that its membership has received little work from the significant amount of new development projects that receive financial incentives by the Westchester County IDA and other such agencies operating in the county due to labor policies that do not require the participation of local labor and/or adherence to state prevailing wage laws.
Westchester County Director of Operations Joan McDonald, who also serves as the chairperson of the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, presented the draft local hire labor policy proposal to IDA Directors at a virtual meeting of the agency held on Jan. 28. The IDA voted to approve the measure at its Feb. 25 virtual session with the new policy scheduled to take effect in 60 days.
In the draft policy, the IDA noted that construction jobs are vital to the overall employment opportunities available to county residents. The policy states, “The IDA believes that companies benefitting from its incentive programs should employ local laborers, mechanics, craft persons, journey workers, equipment operators, truck drivers and apprentices, including those who have returned from military service, during the construction phase of projects.”
McDonald specifically stated that the draft policy was agreed to in discussions held on Dec. 9 with members of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, IDA and other Westchester County government officials and John Cooney, the executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. of Tarrytown.
“The intent is that the local labor be union labor and that the policies taken together with local hire, pre-apprenticeship programs, etc. that it be union.” McDonald said.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said of the new IDA labor policy, “The county is seeking to strike a balance that can work for labor and the development community; to continue to incentivize worthwhile projects and to do so in a way to assist the men and women who work on these projects. We believe these new policies are measured and practical, and will help our working men and women and still ensure that our IDA benefits assist the projects that add growth to our county’s economy.”
Among some of the key components of the proposed new policy include:
• Applicants receiving IDA benefits shall utilize at least 85% local labor (Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester) for their approved projects; 35% of which must be Westchester County residents.
• All applicants for financing from the IDA must provide the names, contact information, certificate of authorization to do business in New York State and copies of certificates of New York Workers Compensation Insurance, State of New York Disability Insurance and General Liability Insurance of all contractors working on the project.
• All applicants are required to provide to the IDA proof of current OSHA 10 training certification (completed within the last five years and renewed every five years) for all construction workers on the project, as well as proof of a four-hour scaffold course for all construction workers utilizing a scaffold on an IDA project site and proof that all construction workers on the IDA project site passed a drug screening test prior to their hiring.
• For all approved projects, the designated construction manager for the project shall provide the IDA project monitor with a certified monthly payroll of all construction workers working on the IDA project, which will include names, days/hours worked and rate of pay and worker classification and annually certify that the IDA project is “in material compliance with state laws related to environmental quality, worker safety and protection, and wages and hours.”
• In order to ensure a skilled workforce, the IDA will require all IDA project subcontractors (expressly excepting the prime or general contractor) must be enrolled in a New York State-certified apprenticeship program. (“Certified Contractor”). The county in its draft documents concerning the labor policy indicated that the IDA may dedicate $50,000 to fund pre-apprenticeship programs operating in the county that provide disadvantaged individuals training and exposure to various trades. The IDA will set aside 10% of each agency fee it receives for such pre-apprenticeship programs.
Richard McSpedon, a member of the IDA Board and vice president of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Policy, proposed that developers be given an “opt-out” to the new labor policy if they negotiate and finalize a Project Labor Agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc. Chairperson McDonald said the opt-out proposal would be discussed at the IDA’s meeting in April.
“I think this is a great policy. I tip my hat to the Board,” McSpedon said. In proposing the opt-out provision requiring the Project Labor Agreement with the building trades, McSpedon noted that it could provide some developers relief from the new regulations and also “foster an honest dialogue between the developers and the building trades where they (developers) would see the sincerity of the trades being competitive in this market, especially when it relates to residential projects.”
Edward Doyle, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam, County, Inc., characterized the new labor policy as “a very good start.” However, he said the new policy would not generate any new jobs for union tradesmen without the requirement of a Project Labor Agreement.
There are already potential exemptions that could be granted in the new labor policy, including:
• Warranty issues related to installation of specialized equipment whereby the manufacturer requires installation by only approved installers;
• Specialized construction is required and no local contractors or construction workers have the required skills, certifications or training to perform the work;
• No labor is available for the project.
• The contractor requires the use of key or core persons such as supervisors, foremen, or construction workers having special skills that are not available in the “local labor” market.
• Cost Differentials: For projects whose project cost exceeds $15 million, significant cost differential in bid prices whereby the use of local labor and materials increase the subcontract or contract of a particular trade or work scope by at least 20%. The cost threshold for projects under $15 million, the cost differential threshold would be 10%.
In both instances, the IDA proposal states, “Every reasonable effort should be made by the applicant and or the applicant’s contractor to get below the (20% or 10%) cost differential including, but not limited to, communicating and meeting with local construction trade organizations, such as the Westchester-Putnam Building and Construction Trades Council and other local Contractor Associations.”
IDA Chairman McDonald said the new labor policy was crafted after similar regulations imposed by other neighboring IDAs, including the Orange County IDA.
Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.