Data wars: Nonunion group says half 2017’s construction deaths happened on union sites

But trade groups say stats are skewed

TRD New York /
Aug.August 29, 2017 09:23 AM

As its latest jab against a proposed construction safety bill, a nonunion construction group argues that deaths at union sites this year are so far on par with those at nonunion sites.

The New York chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors released data on Monday showing that five of 2017’s construction-related deaths occurred on union sites. ABC president Brian Sampson said the statistic shows that union sites are on a more equal footing with their nonunion counterparts than labor leaders have let on.

The data is limited in scope and doesn’t take into account the dozens of deaths that occurred on nonunion sites before this year. But it’s the latest argument flung by the nonunion group in opposition to a proposed construction safety bill being negotiated by the City Council.

“There have been more deaths on nonunion sites, and we fully admit that,” Sampson told The Real Deal. “But in the last year, it’s happening everywhere, and it’s happening at an equal pace on union and nonunion sites.”

The trades have a more staggering statistic at their disposal, which they’ve wielded on numerous occasions. Between 2015 and August of this year, 33 of the 40 construction deaths in the city occurred on nonunion sites, according to the unions.

“It’s too early in 2017 to say that we’re looking at a trend,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH). “You can’t cherry pick data. You can’t just say this is the data I want to share because this is the story I want to tell.”

ABC, the Real Estate Board of New York and others have rallied against components of the bill, which they say disproportionately favors union shops —especially a requirement for 59 hours of safety training. One of their latest grievances is the fact that the City Council is reportedly considering grandfathering workers who’ve gone through a state-sponsored apprenticeship program, meaning that they wouldn’t have to undergo additional safety training. But these negotiations are occurring behind closed doors, so it’s not clear whether such a rule will make it into the next draft of the bill. It’s also worth noting that the legislation wouldn’t have applied to three of the fatalities at union sites this year, since they occurred at bridges and an asphalt plant and not building sites.

“It is shameful that ABC is spending so much time and money to oppose a bill that would make their workers safer,” Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, said in a statement. “Instead, they choose to put profits over people and are merely trying to create a false narrative about construction safety and mask the abysmal safety records of their own members.”

The dueling statistics on construction deaths are yet another example of the issues surrounding data collection on construction-related accidents in the city. In April, the City Council passed a bill requiring the Department of Buildings to post all worker deaths on its website. Before that, the agency only counted deaths that sprung from construction code violations but not workplace safety violations, Crain’s reported at the time. Still, the DOB’s website only lists deaths, as calculated by OSHA, through 2015. The agency’s spreadsheets for months in 2017, as of Tuesday, didn’t have all of the year’s deaths. At the same time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has changed how it publicly keeps track of worker deaths. According to Politico, the federal department will only report worker deaths wherein a company has been issued a citation.

What this means is there isn’t Yet A Centralized Place to look up up-to-date information on worker fatalities, their cause and nor the worker’s union affiliation.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
(iStock)

City Council may extend deadline for construction safety training

City Council may extend deadline for construction safety training
Gary LaBarbera and Bill de Blasio (Getty)

City, construction unions strike deal to hire low-income workers

City, construction unions strike deal to hire low-income workers
348 Court Street (Photo by Justin Heiman/Getty Images)

Collapses raise questions about safety-law exemption

Collapses raise questions about safety-law exemption
Clockwise from the top: Dov Hertz and Sunset Industrial Park at 75-81 20th Street in Brooklyn; 155 West 29th Street and 1640 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn (Credit: Google Maps; 1640 Flatbush via S9 Architecture)

Worst month of the year for big construction filings

Worst month of the year for big construction filings
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Schumer by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; McConnell by Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty)

Schumer v. McConnell on SALT: Who’s gonna give?

Schumer v. McConnell on SALT: Who’s gonna give?
From left: Jared Kushner, 715 Park Avenue, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing, and Rosemary Vrablic (Credits: Kushner by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images; 715 Park via Google Maps; Sewing by by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images; Vrablic by PAUL LAURIE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Apartment sale to banker for Trump and Kushner probed

Apartment sale to banker for Trump and Kushner probed
Navillus president Donal O’Sullivan (Image via Navillus)

Navillus CEO, sister arrested in $1M scheme to cheat unions

Navillus CEO, sister arrested in $1M scheme to cheat unions
Assemblyman Harvey Epstein and Senator Brad Hoylman (Epstein by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images; Hoylman by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Lawmakers introduce bill to keep rent regulation alive

Lawmakers introduce bill to keep rent regulation alive
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...