A key construction union is calling for the passage of a bill meant to crack down on wage theft at job sites in New York and make workers whole in the process.
But the bill is opposed by business organizations, who worry the measure goes too far and will make it more expensive to do business in the state.
At issue is wage theft, which has disproportionately affected vulnerable workers who are not represented by a union, Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera said in an interview.
"Unfortunately, often times the most vulnerable workers are exploited the most," he said. "This is unacceptable and it's really unscrupulous to do this and when they try to reclaim their wages or their benefits, they are very unsuccessful."
The bill would require prime contractors to pay workers who have had their wages deemed to be stolen, holding them responsible if a third-party subcontractor is found to have been at fault. The measure is meant to address the current system in which a worker must bring a private lawsuit.
LaBarbera pointed to the protections afforded those workers represented by a labor group have stronger safeguards.
"Union workers have recourse because they are represented, non-union workers don't, that's why they're so exploited," he said.
The New York State Business Council, however, said the measure shifts blame from bad actors in construction to prime contractors when enforcement is best left to the Department of Labor and law enforcement.
Having contractors become defendants in wage theft cases will make it more costly to do business in New York.
"Administrative and legal costs associated with both compliance and lawsuits due to private rights of action will be a disincentive to business success, let alone growth," the Business Council wrote in a memo. "This is particularly true for smaller firms and undercapitalized contractors and new entrants to the markets including minority and women-owned businesses. The cost of payment bonds to protect against any wage claims will be particularly hard for these smaller and less capitalized contractors."