When the NYC Council passed six of 21 proposed construction safety bills, the most controversial measure was shelved: a provision that would require construction workers to undergo an apprenticeship program or otherwise receive safety training. This had been a hotly contested issue with unions advocating apprenticeships and construction companies for the most part opposing them.
Some city officials had also come out against the proposed apprenticeships. According to the website ConstructionDive, “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio previously came out in opposition to that particular piece of the Construction Safety Act and suggested that the city increase inspections and impose larger penalties instead. De Blasio and open-shop contractors said city apprenticeship programs, roughly half of which are union-backed, would not be practical for nonunion projects.”
Union officials claim the city’s construction sites are not as safe as they could be, because too many workers are not trained according to acceptable standards. As reported by ConstructionDive, “According to a trade union analysis of data, 30 workers died in construction accidents in 2015 and 2016. In January, a report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health noted that 80 percent of job-site deaths in 2014 and 2015 occurred on nonunion sites.” But since the city has not tracked accidents according to a union/nonunion designation, there is still a lack of hard data supporting the unions’ assertions.
Contractors who use nonunion labor object to the apprenticeship requirement because the unions run the overwhelming majority of such programs, and because the requirement would drive up the cost of labor. However, under new rules passed in April, the city has begun tracking construction site injuries and fatalities, including whether the incident occurred at a union or nonunion job site. So, within the next couple of years, there may be ample evidence to settle this argument one way or the other.
At [ln::firm_name], our attorneys represent construction workers hurt on the job, so we approve of efforts to improve safety at all the city’s job sites. However, piling up new regulations doesn’t always yield better results. For now, Mayor de Blasio’s suggestion of increased inspections and hefty fines for safety violations seems like a good direction. We hope the mayor provides the Department of Buildings with the resources they need to make increased inspections happen.