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Do Non-Union Construction Workers Face More Danger?

Unions are facing many challenges today, and New York City’s construction industry is no exception. A comptroller report estimates there are just over 400,000 construction workers in the city, the highest figure in the nation. Only about one-quarter of those positions are held by union members.

This figure should be alarming. Not only is construction the most dangerous industry in the state, but one report suggests working without the protection of a union is even more perilous.

Non-union job sites are deadlier

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety conducted an analysis of construction worker fatalities, coming up with concerning results. The group looked at 30 construction death investigations on private construction work sites from 2017.

That year in New York City, nearly all the construction workers who died on private work sites – 92.9% of fatalities, to be exact – were non-union.

Why might this be the case? The group cites two main reasons. First, oversight of private non-union work sites falls to agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is severely limited by budget cuts. Second, workers on non-union sites may not be as comfortable reporting safety worries to their employer, as there is no union presence to offer protection from potential retaliation.

Taken together, this means non-union private sites are not being inspected enough to ensure site safety, and those who could report violations – the workers themselves – aren’t empowered to do so.

Providing a safe work site is not optional

Another likely explanation is that owners, developers, and contractors who are trying to cut expenses by hiring less costly, non-union workers may also be cutting corners in terms of worker safety. When profits are more important than safety, workers (both union and non-union) get injured and killed.

Whether a construction site is union or non-union does not change one simple fact: Owners and construction contractors are obligated to provide a safe environment for workers. They must follow all regulations, provide proper equipment, and meet training standards.

We know that all construction workers in New York work hard and put their lives on the line on a daily basis. That is why we work tirelessly to represent the interests of construction workers who are hurt on the job. If you are concerned about safety on your job site or have sustained an injury, we encourage you to contact an experienced construction injury law firm to learn more about your legal options.

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