De Blasio sides against construction unions over mandatory training proposal

Mayor argues better inspections, rules would do more to improve safety

Bill de Blasio and a New York City Construction site
Bill de Blasio and a New York City Construction site

Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to back mandatory apprenticeship programs for construction workers on Monday, siding against a proposal backed by construction unions.

“Everyone knows I prefer union labor and I’m a big fan of apprenticeship programs. I don’t think [a] requirement works, practically speaking,” he said. “I think the more we could do, the better, so I encourage it. I 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.”

The City Council is working on a law to regulate the construction industry more strictly, and is considering forcing contractors to hire workers who have gone through an apprenticeship program. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has said she backs the proposal.

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The proposal’s supporters argue that it would improve worksite safety. But it would also be a big boost to construction unions, which offer their members training. According to the state Department of Labor, 47 percent of the city’s construction training programs are backed by unions.

De Blasio countered that it would be better to address safety issues by hiring more inspectors, increasing penalties and tightening regulations.

Pat Purcell, the Greater New York Laborers & Employers Cooperation & Education Trust’s executive director, criticized de Blasio’s stance, arguing that nonunion sites “do not have the same commitment to safety and training as union job sites.” [Politico]Konrad Putzier