The Real Deal New York

Rise in construction accidents spurs nonunion groups to offer training

New program intended as rebuttal to organized labor's demands for new safety, regulations

February 29, 2016 04:39PM

Collapse at 25 West 38th Street (credit: @Hennesseyedit/Twitter) (inset: Gary LaBarbera)

Collapse at 25 West 38th Street (credit: @Hennesseyedit/Twitter) (inset: Gary LaBarbera)

The rise in construction accidents and deaths spurred a new group of nonunion companies to launch a training and apprenticeship program — intended as a direct rebuttal to organized labor’s demands for new safety and training regulations.

BuildingNYC, a coalition of developers and contractors, partnered with Associated Builders and Contractors, which is a national federation of nonunion companies. Their program will provide standard Occupational Safety and Health Administration coursework and instruction for various trades, followed by an apprenticeship.

Amid a construction boom, there has been an increase in construction accidents. Since 2009, construction has tripled, with 88 million square feet built in 2015. Over the same period, accidents have doubled, with a total of 433 citywide in 2015.

The New York Observer reported city figures that 11 people were killed on the job at construction sites, driving organized labor to press for new rules and higher standards.

Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York, told the Observer that union apprenticeships last several years and union workers cannot go on job sites until training is complete. He pointed out his organization has 4,700 workers in programs, while Associated Builders and Contractors has 19 enrolled in apprenticeships in the New York City area, according to Freedom of Information Law request.

“It’s like astroturf. There’s no deep roots. They don’t have a strong member involvement,” LaBarbera told the Observer. “It’s almost an insult that they’re doing this.”

After a fatal crane collapse on Worth Street earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city will quadruple fines for serious safety lapses and undertake “proactive” safety investigations at 1,500 construction sites. [NYO]Dusica Sue Malesevic

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