Are Union Jobs Safer?

October 18, 2016

New York City counted 12 construction fatalities in 2015, a 50-percent increase over the previous year. Non-fatal injuries were up by almost the same rate, according to the NYC Department of Buildings.

To better understand what is causing the increase in construction accidents - besides the overall building boom in the city - politicians and labor groups want to track incidents by the kind of jobsite: union or nonunion.

“Tracking it may actually be helpful in finding out what’s actually going on,” Jumaane Williams, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, told the Daily News.

One of the current recordkeeping discrepancies in NYC is that the city only counts deaths that violate the city's construction code, which focuses on public safety more than that of workers. Last year, the NYC Department of Buildings counted 12 fatalities, yet the federal government reported 17 deaths.

While OSHA issued violations and fines to all of the death investigations, the city considers workplace accidents a labor issue and unless there is a threat to public safety, those fatalities do not fall under the DOB's jurisdiction and are not investigated at the local level.

The hope is that by tracking if a job site is union or nonunion there will be better clarity and understanding of what is causing the increase in injuries and death on NYC construction sites, and if a clear correlation can be drawn on if union jobsites have better safety practices and oversite.