Construction worker deaths are rising in New York and Latinos are especially at risk.
according to a new report,
released last month, by the New
York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).
Between 2006-2015, at least 464 construction workers died while on
the job in New York. The study also found safety violations at more
than 68 percent of construction site inspections. The penalties for
such infractions are small.
in the shadow of Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders on
immigration, the report identifies the specific vulnerabilities of
being a Latino construction worker. While Latinos made up just 30
percent of the construction workforce in 2015, they accounted for 57
percent of the fatalities due to falls.
are more likely than non-Latinos to die on the job due to cases of
extreme employer recklessness and disregard for human life, and they
are more likely to die from fatal falls,” the report reads. “They
are also more likely to be victims of wage theft, experiencing dual
exploitation by their employers.”
report also exposes the difference between union and nonunion job
sites. As recently as the 1980s, almost all residential projects in
the city were constructed with union labor. That is no longer true. A
2014 study showed
that only 30 percent of mid- and high-rise residential and hotel
projects used union concrete workers, exclusively.
of the city’s largest firms have opened the door to using nonunion
labor, including companies like Turner Construction Co. and Plaza
Construction, according to the Wall
Street Journal. When
developers Michael Stern and Kevin Maloney decided to
use mainly nonunion labor to build a 1,400 foot luxury condo on
“Billionaire’s Row” in Manhattan, the move was perceived as a
watershed moment for the future of organized labor in New York.
Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York ran a
contentious campaign that targeted Stern’s JDS Development,
questioning his safety record.
guess I’m the current target at the moment—there have been others
in the past,” Stern told Politico at
the time. “The unions are trying to find issues, like safety, and
disingenuously use them to further their own political interests. The
reality is, construction’s dangerous. Everybody wants all buildings
to be safe.”
the new report makes clear that concerns about the safety of nonunion
labor sites transcend political interests. It found that nonunion
sites are especially dangerous. In 2014, 80 percent of the sites
inspected by OSHA after fatalities occurred were nonunion. In 2015,
that number was 74 percent. Double the amount of safety violations
were found at nonunion sites in 2014, compared to union construction
sites, the study said.
battle between union and nonunion construction labor in New York City
has made its way to City Hall before, but there’s a new round of
proposed legislation that is causing commotion. Shortly after a
construction worker fell to his death in December, New York City
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito voiced her support for
legislation that would increase safety. Wilfredo Enriques, 59, was
working on the development of the old Domino Sugar refinery in
Williamsburg when he fell to his death.
of the most controversial pieces of legislation is a bill that would
require contractors be trained in apprenticeship programs approved by
the New York State Department of Labor if they’re working on
construction projects that are 100,000 square feet or more or have 50
or more residential units. Critics say the rule is merely a
backhanded way for NYC unions to regain some of the power they’ve
lost. Since unions already participate in these programs, the
proposed bill would require workers to either join a union or go
through the process of applying independently.
one of the strongest critics of the training program is New York City
Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen by many as a pro-union lawmaker. The mayor
has refused to support an apprenticeship requirement.
want to support the maximum use of it, but it’s not going to solve
the problem anytime soon because there are always going to be some
nonunion sites and that’s where our stricter regulation is going to
make a real impact,” he said in
supporters of the legislation aren’t giving up. Thousands of
construction workers, lawmakers and families of deceased construction
workers rallied near City Hall recently to support the legislation.
can no longer tolerate irresponsible developers and contractors who
are putting profits over the safety of workers,” said Gary
LaBarbera president of the Building and Construction Trades Council
of Greater New York. “This
must end now.”
>> The article above was written by Michael Arria, and is reprinted from In These Times.