Two construction workers were seriously injured on July 30 when a building under renovation collapsed in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn.
Construction work is the most deadly work in New York City. Construction workers make up only 5% of NYC’s total workforce, but account for 27% of work-related injury fatalities, according to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration.
When most of the city was closed for business during the coronavirus pandemic, many construction sites remained open with construction workers forced to choose between working in close, unsanitary and unsafe quarters or losing a paycheck.
More and more nonunion workers, mostly immigrants, have been hired by the construction industry anxious to exploit vulnerable workers and avoid safety precautions. The death toll from construction work in New York City increased in 2019 for the third year in a row. Twenty-four construction workers died in 2019, compared to 22 in 2018. From 2010 to 2019, there were 215 construction worker fatalities.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a worker-advocacy group, found that 86% of the workers who died on private job sites were nonunion. Latino workers in New York suffer the highest rates of worker fatalities. In 2018, Latinos represented 10% of all workers in New York State, but 19% of those who died on the job.
Cathy Rojas, the socialist candidate for mayor of New York City, described this casualty rate as “disgraceful,” and called upon the city to vigorously enforce the safety laws that exist and extend them when needed, extend all union safety measures to non-union construction workers, and hold the real estate giants legally responsible for the health and safety of the workers.
Police only the 16th most dangerous job
In this city, a police injury or death gets front-page news for weeks. One would think it was the most dangerous job. But police work ranks 16th on the list of the country’s most dangerous jobs, far below construction jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Deaths or injuries for construction workers? News of construction deaths are usually in the back pages of the press, if reported at all.
“Eric Adams has nothing to say about the dangers of construction work,” said Rojas. In fact, Adams, who is running for mayor on the Democratic Party ticket, received as much as $322,750 in donations from 2015 to 2019 from lobbyists and developers seeking favors from him. “The real estate industry is ‘very happy’ to have him in their corner, accepting tons of money to do their bidding,” Rojas continued. “If the so-called ‘working-class candidate,’ as he calls himself, really cared about working-class people, he would put construction safety and the safety of immigrant workers and all workers at the top of his to-do list.
“My campaign is about empowering working-class people to put their needs at the top of any list. Unlike Mr. Adams, we do not accept big money from the very people who expect the mayor to be their servant.”