By Tafadar Sourov
Early last Monday on November 27th, FDNY personnel rushed to Chelsea in response to a gas leak. Six buildings were evacuated by the firefighters in case of an explosion.
“The FDNY says a construction crew digging around 9 am on West 19th St. and 10th Avenue accidentally broke the valve of a four inch gas main, causing a high pressure leak,” reported CBS News.
The project is managed by Related Companies, LLP, which runs the job with non union workers. Over the past year, such incidents have raised much criticism from the building trades unions of NYC. Union construction workers are rigorously trained in the skills of their trade, as well as their own safety and that of the public. Such training isn’t offered in the non-union world, where the bulk of construction related deaths occur.
Just last week, scaffolds collapsed on a non union job on the corner of Prince St. and Broadway, injuring six people and trapping one man. On Monday afternoon a fire broke out at the Bricktown Commons in Staten Island, on a non-union job.
The rising death tolls in the construction industry moved the building trades unions to fight for mandatory apprenticeships for all construction workers in NYC. The Construction Safety Bill, Intro 1447, was voted in by City Council in September and it requires workers to receive at least 40 hours of safety training. The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) fought against the bill in City Hall. City Council members such as Jumaane Williams and Ben Kallos have chastised the ABC for being disreputable and using alternative facts to oppose the safety legislation.
The building trades have been loudly protesting companies such as Related, Gilbane, and others that have been trying to normalize open shop in the construction industry of the city. The unions and the employers not only find themselves on the opposite sides of rally lines and debates in City Council hearings, but also on this question: what is more important, the safety of workers and pedestrians, or the profits of these employers?
Tafadar Sourov a long time community organizer from The Bronx, and a rank and file activist of Laborers Local 79.
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