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Are union construction jobs safer in New York City?

Labor groups and politicians are asking a lot of questions surrounding the safety of construction jobs in New York City -- particularly the safety of union jobs. Officials want to know if the recent spike in construction job-related deaths and injuries relates more to nonunion jobs or union jobs. They want to determine if workers are safer when they are unionized.

Nonunion companies and union companies engage in fierce competition when trying to secure building contracts. Union advocates have claimed for a long time that unionized workers are better skilled, safer and less prone to getting injured or killed on the job. However, we haven't seen any statistics that can back up those claims, which makes them very hard to confirm.

What we need to know if unionized jobs are safer

According to a city councilman who serves as the chair of the New York City Committee on Housing and Buildings, tracking injury statistics for unionized versus nonunionized workers could help safety regulators know what is happening and where to apply their efforts to keep workers as safe as possible.

During the last two years, construction is booming, which is good for business and creating more construction industry jobs. However, this rise in construction activity has also resulted in a rise in deaths, injuries and accidents. Stop-work orders and building violations have also risen in response.

In 2015, for example, the number of construction-related accidents rose to 433 and the number of construction-related injuries rose to 471. The Department of Buildings says that these numbers are approximately double the figures from the year before.

Considering the dangers involved in construction jobs, workers need to know what they're getting into, and what kinds of risks they are assuming by taking a particular job. Should it be revealed that unionized jobs are safer, workers will be encouraged to work for a union contractor versus a nonunionized one. At the very least, nonunionized workers should receive better insurance coverage, benefits and better wages as compensation for the higher risks they assume.

2015 death of nonunionized immigrant spurred safety questions

Last year, the death of a nonunionized construction worker -- a 22-year-old immigrant from Ecuador -- brought more attention to safety concerns for New York City construction workers. The young man died in a Meatpacking District construction accident while working in an unfortified trench that collapsed.

According to prosecutors, safety inspectors had actually warned supervisors at the job site that the trench was hazardous, months prior to the collapse that crushed the young man. The court convicted the nonunionized contractor, Harco Construction, of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter.

Have you been injured at a construction site?

New York City construction workers, whether they are unionized or not, have the right to receive compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. Depending on the severity of the injuries, workers' compensation benefits for a construction injury may include money to pay for medical care, money for rehabilitative services, wage replacement benefits for time spent unable to work and more. By contacting a workers' compensation lawyer, New York City residents can evaluate the most appropriate legal strategies for pursuing these kinds of benefits for themselves and/or their families.

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