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The Debate Continues: Are Non-Union Work Sites Putting Workers' Lives At Risk?

The increased rate of construction in and around New York City has come with the unfortunate but still very avoidable consequence of increased risk to construction workers. Awareness of the issue, however, only seems to come on the heels of another terrible accident. Just this past Wednesday, January 27, 2016, a construction worker was critically injured when he fell four stories and was impaled on steel rebar at a site near Union Square, 34 West 17th Street. Consequently, a hard hitting piece was put out by PIX11, attached below.

This increased risk to worker safety is due to several factors, chief among them, experts claim, is that developers and contractors are cutting corners to save costs. The corner-cutting is repeated throughout the industry, despite the obvious dangers to workers. From depressed wages to the lack of proper safety training, little mind is paid to the most vulnerable individuals on worksites. Who do the 'Most Vulnerable' workers tend to be? Non-Union Labor.

Some non-union construction workers are being forced to provide their own safety equipment while others are ordered to perform jobs outside of their training and trade, heightening the risk of injury and death. Many of these exploited workers are undocumented, thus they are much more hesitant to voice complaints for fear of the repercussions, including deportation. Many lack basic, fundamental safety training.

The controversy over union versus non-union work. Union leaders have been illuminating the disparity in accidents on non-union construction sites forever. They argue that the differences between how non-union work is done when compared to the union way is akin to the difference between life and death. It is quite clear, the failure to fully commit to worker safety has serious, even deadly, consequences. In 2015 alone, New York City saw 16 deaths on construction sites. While the increased rate of construction has no doubt benefitted the city, it must not be forgotten that it has come at the consequence of injury and death to the employees performing that work.

Block O'Toole & Murphy is a law firm committed to fighting on behalf of serious accident victims, particularly victims of construction accidents. We pride ourselves on holding those who place hardworking construction workers in harm's way responsible whenever they fail to provide adequate protection to their workers. We have recovered nearly $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients, and we fight to preserve and expand the laws that exist to protect New York construction workers. You can learn more about our firm by visiting, and you can always call us for a free consultation at (212) 736-5300 to speak with one of our many experienced trial lawyers.


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