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Non-union contractors call for drug and alcohol testing at NYC construction sites

Associated Builders and Contractors, a non-union organization with more than 21,000 members, is calling for mandatory alcohol and drug testing in New York City construction sites.

Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr
Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr

In a letter sent to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the group urged legislators to include the provision as an amendment to Intro. 1447, a bill that aims to require apprenticeship programs for building and demolition sites.

“As the City Council considers amendments to Int. 1447, we urge you to strengthen the legislation with a provision mandating drug and alcohol testing for all New York City construction workers. This long-overdue mandate would play a crucial role in your efforts to increase construction safety and would undoubtedly save lives in one of the city’s most dangerous industries,” the group wrote.

“Let us not forget that this kind of testing is commonly found in other fields – many of which are far less dangerous than the construction industry. If individuals like baseball players and customer service representatives are screened for drug use, why would we not apply at least the same standard to construction workers?”

Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, disparaged the proposal, saying that there is no evidence that drugs and alcohol played a part in fatal construction accidents in the city.

“The Building Trades absolutely believe in drug and alcohol-free worksites. In fact, fair and equitable drug and alcohol testing programs have been the subject of negotiations in the union sector of the industry,” he said.

“Make no mistake about it, there has never been even one allegation of drug or alcohol use related to any of the dozens of fatalities on worksites across New York City. This letter is nothing more than a diversionary attempt by irresponsible developers and non-union contractors to scapegoat workers, shift the blame to victims, and cover up for their own poor safety record which puts profits over worker safety.”

Josue Reap, the vice president of ABC’s Empire State chapter, said that they were “surprised and disappointed” by LaBarbera’s statement.

“We are surprised and disappointed to see the building trade unions oppose a drug and alcohol testing initiative that would increase construction safety and help protect the public. Union leaders are well aware that many construction incidents are the result of drug and alcohol use, which is unacceptable. We believe that addressing the problem of drugs and alcohol in one of the world’s most dangerous industries will benefit all construction workers and help keep more people safe,” he said.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there have been 11 construction-related fatalities in the city since last April, nine of which involved non-union workers.

One the latest cases involved Jose Cruz, who fell two stories while working on the future site of the Grand Ole Opry restaurant at 1604 Broadway.

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