Miami-Dade County

City of Miami contractors may have to pay ‘responsible wage’

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon
Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon El Nuevo Herald

No one can quite say yet what it will cost, but Miami commissioners may vote Thursday to require construction and maintenance vendors to pay their workers a “responsible wage.”

The legislation, proposed by Commissioner Keon Hardemon, lays out minimum wages for an array of blue collar workers and forces city contractors with city deals in excess of $100,000 to pay their employees accordingly. If benefits aren’t included in the compensation, those rates go up.

The law also requires vendors building for private companies on public land to abide by the ordinance if they’re embarking on projects in excess of $5 million, or if they project is receiving any government subsidies. That might apply, for instance, to the SkyRise Miami tower approved by voters this summer.

Local labor groups, who would negotiate responsible wages with the city, have embraced the legislation. Alan Eichenbaum, an attorney with the South Florida Building and Construction Trades Council, said the legislation will keep private contractors from undercutting the market.

But Carlos Carrillo, regional vice president of the Miami-Dade County Associated Builders and Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter, says the city is allowing labor unions to set the market, driving up costs for the public and effectively pushing out businesses that don’t hire union workers.

“Are they going to decide to prop up local trade unions?” asked Carrillo. “Is it more important to them than hiring more cops and providing more services?”

Carrillo, citing a 2012 Colombia University study of a New York wage program, predicts the legislation will boost the cost of Miami’s capital projects — including affordable housing — by 30 percent. Eichenbaum disputed that prediction, and said contractor associations still have a say in the process.

“The union doesn’t just come up with these rates,” he said. “The rates are set by the unions and the contractors.”

But for now Miami’s administrators have been unable to give an estimate on how much capital projects would increase in cost. Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo said staffers need more time to research the issue. So if commissioners pass the legislation, they won’t know how much it’s costing taxpayers.

“Nobody can give me that number,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the lone dissenting vote last month, said Monday.