They build this city: Protecting New York’s construction workers

COUNCIL MEMBER JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS | 10/19/2017, 1:13 p.m.
The stunning skyline of New York City rises up around us, fluid in its shape as new skyscrapers are erected ...
Construction

I can only conclude that many of the people who are attacking this law are doing so with deliberate misinformation designed to stoke fears that this bill will harm, rather than protect, nonunion workers of more color. In reality, the opposite is true. This law includes numerous provisions to ensure that the training is accessible to all. OSHA training, for example, meets the requirements laid out in this law, which is more accessible than other methods. Proctored online training options are available to further expand the reach of the training and our capacity to meet the needs of our workers. If for any reason we’re unable to meet those goals on our initial timeline, the process can be delayed to ensure all are included.

Much like a job site, we all have to be able ttrust each other for this initiative to work. To ensure that access to this training is a reality for all workers, regardless of background, immigration status or union status, we’ll be working with groups already committed to similar goals. We want to build out and expand the operations of those who are already providing training of this kind to those who otherwise couldn’t access it. And because, like all fields, the construction industry changes, workers will have an eight-hour refresher course every five years.

One change in the construction industry is not a welcome one. There has been an alarming erosion in the culture of safety at construction sites. Worker well-being has been sacrificed for expediency and profit, and this disastrous exchange has a real, human cost. Even on the day after we passed this bill out of committee, two workers were killed at two separate job sites. That cannot, must not, be written off as the “cost of doing business. Responsibility for worker safety needs to start at the top, and that means developers need to know that when a worker is injured or killed on their site, they bear that responsibility. Many opposing this law seem to be deliberately misinforming the public because they value money over safety, and that needs to change now.

The culture of treating human life as one more resource runs deep. But this law, and the package of laws crafted by my colleagues, will mark the first shift toward reversing that and making sure construction workers and their families know they’ll come home at the end of the day. I’m proud of the part I’ve played and the part I continue to play in keeping our workers and their families safe and secure. The culture of the construction industry is deeply damaged. But we can rebuild it.