Increased Construction Safety Requirements in NYC: Win for Unions or Win for Everyone?

By Max Terhar

On October 16, 2017, the New York City Council unanimously passed a municipal regulation, Intro 1447, requiring construction workers to have between forty and fifty-five hours of safety training within the previous five years.[1]  While the regulation sets the total hour requirement, a fourteen-person task force, appointed by Mayor de Blasio, will come up with the specific safety training requirements.”[2]  Intro 1447’s requirements are substantially higher than the federal standard.  The construction industry in New York City has until March 1, 2018 to comply with Intro 1447, and failure to comply may result in a $25,000 fine, per non-compliant person.[3]  Additionally, the regulation sets aside $5,000,000 to help workers acquire the necessary training to stay, or become, compliant with the regulation.[4]

The City Council’s unanimous decision demonstrates that the City will no longer put up with the eighteen percent increase in construction worksite injuries for fiscal year 2017, and the thirty-nine deaths since 2014.[5]  While some believe this regulation to be a win for unions because unions typically pay the costs associated with training their employees while nonunion workers do not have this luxury, the City Council is aimed at promoting a safe working environment and combatting the increasing dangers associated with construction sites.[6]  The City Council understood this regulation might hinder the ability of some nonunion workers to obtain the necessary training because of the expense associated with becoming complaint, and therefore set aside money to accommodate these individuals.[7]  However, developers and the Real Estate Board of New York opposed the regulation because they argued it would require as many as 120,000 workers to pay for their own training, possibly delaying, or even halting, nonunion projects, because $5,000,000 is not enough to bring non-compliant individuals into compliance.[8]

The nonunion workforce has slowly increased its numbers since 1970, increasing its market share to thirty or forty percent of the total construction workforce.[9]  Nonunion construction workers are concerned about the impact of Intro 1447 because it may cause a personal financial burden on its workers, or force nonunion workers to join unions to maintain their work eligibility.[10]  The total training costs, in terms of the actual training and lost income to participate in the training, will likely cause an unbearable burden on individuals making between $15.70 and $19.82 per hour.[11] If developers decide to provide the necessary safety training for their nonunion workforce, New York City could see real estate prices increase over the short term, but eventually level out once all necessary training is provided.

 

[1] Intro 1447, The New York City Council, http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2939936&GUID=158EF0D3-4D99-4A33-8B16-55A67B1EDA18; Richard Korman, New York City Adopts New Construction Safety Training Law, Engineering News-Record (Oct. 1, 2017), https://www.enr.com/articles/42866-new-york-city-adopts-new-construction-safety-training-law.

[2] Richard Korman, New York City Adopts New Construction Safety Training Law, Engineering News-Record (Oct. 1, 2017), https://www.enr.com/articles/42866-new-york-city-adopts-new-construction-safety-training-law.

[3] New York Construction Worker Safety Law Signed, Construction Equipment, (Oct. 17, 2017), https://www.constructionequipment.com/new-york-construction-worker-safety-law-signed.

[4] Korman, supra note 2.

[5] New York Construction Worker Safety Law Signed, Construction Equipment, (Oct. 17, 2017), https://www.constructionequipment.com/new-york-construction-worker-safety-law-signed.

[6] Korman, supra note 2.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Kathryn Brenzel, Are Unions Losing Their Grip in NYC??, The Real Deal (Mar. 01, 2016, 10:00 AM), https://therealdeal.com/issues_articles/are-unions-losing-their-grip-in-nyc/.

[10] Korman, supra note 2.

[11] Korman, supra note 2; Brenzel, supra note 10.

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