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Construction Safety Law Delayed As Union And Nonunion Factions Clash

A construction worker

The New York City Council will not vote on a law on construction safety as debate rages on among various factions.

The council was reportedly planning to vote on a law requiring the creation of a construction safety task force, one that would mandate 59 hours of training for city construction workers, but no vote was scheduled and Councilman Jumaane Williams told The Real Deal that several details are still being worked out.

The Building and Construction Trades Council is in favor of the bill, as President Gary LaBarbera said that something must be done to "stem the tide" of construction injuries and fatalities in the city. Meanwhile, groups as varied as the Real Estate Board of New York and the NAACP are opposed to the bill.

Claiming that a 59-hour minimum is arbitrary, REBNY is worried that implementation of such training mandates would halt construction around the city. The NAACP expressed concern that the mandate would disproportionately affect smaller and minority-owned businesses less equipped to weather a delay for training.

The two organizations partnered with some nonunion construction groups to form Putting New Yorkers to Work to voice opposition to the bill.

“Improving safety at construction sites throughout New York City is critical, but shouldn’t be done in a way that will result in the unemployment of tens of thousands of city residents,” REBNY President John Banks said to TRD. 

In whatever form the bill takes when it is put up for a vote, a training mandate to be enforced for union and nonunion workers alike would be a test case for methods of ensuring the construction labor pool is trained enough to tackle complex development jobs — a worsening problem nationwide.