The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released information in January 2017 that confirmed the fears of many immigrant workers throughout New York City. The report indicated that construction companies around New York City are routinely violating labor and safety laws at the expense of workers. But the most affected group are immigrant workers, who are the most likely to get injured or die on a New York City
The report pointed out that approximately eight out of every 10 construction deaths in New York City occurs on non-union job sites. Non-union construction companies are notorious for hiring undocumented labor and then violating safety laws and labor regulations just to save money on projects. New York City unions and non-union workers want the city to hold non-union shops to higher standards to protect workers.
Undocumented Immigrant Workers Injured On The Job
Luis Mayancela was only 15 years old when he was illegally hired to work for a construction company in Portland, Maine. It wasn’t long before Luis fell off a roof he was working on and broke his leg in several places. He said that the pain was so intense that he could not speak or breathe. Despite his pain, his employer had Luis driving to a hospital in Massachusetts where Luis was left to fend for himself as far as his medical bills went.
The Mayancela story is one that is repeated over and over again throughout New England and New York City. Mayancela was too young to be working in construction, and he was an undocumented worker who was paid in cash. All over New York City, non-union employers offer no safety training, have very little safety equipment for workers, pay workers in cash, and refuse to pay when workers are injured. After the NYCOSH report was issued, New York City workers and unions marched on City Hall saying that they had had enough.
The Numbers And Demographics Of Illegal Workers
The NYCOSH report revealed that 90 percent of the construction sites that saw fatalities had some sort of serious safety violation. The problem is largely an immigrant issue, but Latinos are feeling the pain more than other groups. In 2015, 57 percent of all fatalities on construction sites in New York City were Latino. Not surprisingly, many of the deceased were part of the undocumented labor force.
The union leaders throughout the city said that this report shows that non-union construction companies are cheating laborers on wages, cheating the government out of tax revenue, and then keeping the money for themselves. The non-union construction company owners are not investing in safety training, better working conditions, or safety equipment for their workers.
Will Safety Laws Lead To Better Training?
New York City is giving safety laws a try by enhancing the laws on the books and contributing to construction safety by adding more city inspectors to the payroll. One of the complaints from union contractors and workers is that the city’s Department of Buildings does not have enough inspectors to keep non-union shops honest. The city has responded with more inspectors and an increase in the fines and intensity of punishments for repeat safety offenders.
The unions’ involvement is not surprising considering the significant drop in union membership over the past few decades. Unions want to show that the extra investment in safety training and certifications offered by union organizations is well worth the increase in costs associated with hiring unions. Any chance unions get to weaken the position of non-union construction companies is welcomed with open arms.
However, the non-union companies are not exactly helping themselves by cutting corners on safety and working conditions. With the new NYCOSH findings, New York City may have to start taking even harsher actions against construction companies that repeatedly violate safety laws at the expense of worker safety. It seems as though the city’s actions to bring in more inspectors and increase the strength of non-compliance punishments is only the beginning of what really needs to be done to help immigrant workers feel safe on the job.