CIVIC CENTER — A bill that would require construction projects to hire trained laborers got a boost from a new report Thursday, supporters of the measure said.
The Safe Jobs Act, introduced by Brooklyn Councilwoman Diana Reyna, would compel developers that receive $1 million or more in government subsidies to hire workers who have participated in a state-approved apprenticeship program. It would also force developers to disclose significant information about these projects, including the type and amount of public assistance received, who the contractors on the project are, and any history of violations.
Reyna, in an interview shortly after the bill was introduced in last month, said the purpose of the bill was to bolster safety in an industry that “preys on the immigrants, especially the undocumented,” while helping low-income communities where “the development boom didn't necessary capture residents.”
A new report released Thursday from the national non-profit Public Citizen, called “The Price of Inaction: The Cost of Unsafe Construction in New York City,” is being touted by supporters of the Safe Jobs Act as proof greater construction safety measures need to be taken.
“The dangers of construction to both workers and the public are increasingly recognized as an issue that requires government action,” Gary LaBarbera, the president of the labor-backed group Build Up NYC, said in a statement accompanying the report. “We are confident this report will help move City Council members to support our call for action through passage of the Safe Jobs Act.”
According to the report, 36 construction workers lost their lives on the job in New York City in 2011 and 2012. Those fatalities represented 24 percent of all workplace fatalities, despite the fact that construction workers only make up 3 percent of the city’s workforce.
The report also said that nearly three-quarters of all the deaths occurred on sites where workers did not participate in the state-approved training programs the Safe Jobs Act would require.
“New York City should adopt legislation that speaks to safety, health and apprenticeship training requirements,” the reports authors wrote. “It’s the right thing to do and will help lower New York City’s fatality rates in the construction industry and will create a more transparent process bidding process.”
Even as construction workers and elected officials plan to rally on the steps of City Hall in support of the bill, support inside the Council appears to be waning.
Five council members who had originally come out in support of the bill — Charles Barron, Al Vann, Leroy Comrie, Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander—have removed their names as cosponsors of the legislation. While representatives for the five councilmen declined or didn't answer requests for comment, an insider tells DNAinfo New York that concern is growing on the bill’s impact on smaller and minority-owned developers who would struggle financially to meet the training requirements.
Additionally, the concerns raised by some housing advocates over the effect the new rules would have on the creation of affordable housing were also cited as reasons they dropped their sponsorship.
In a statement, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing praised the five as “responsible leaders who are standing up for New York City’s communities by abandoning this deeply destructive legislation."
Backers of the Safe Jobs Act refute these claims, saying the cost of training is a small percentage of the overall labor costs in developments, while claiming that many minority and women owned developers already participating in state-approved training and apprenticeship programs.
The bill is currently backed by 20 sponsors and remains in committee pending a possible vote.