The New York City Buildings Department has launched an investigation into the March 10th crane accident that caused the tragic death of Antonio Veloso, as reported by the New York Post.
Veloso, a 54-year-old Portuguese immigrant and New Jersey resident, was a member of the Laborers International Union Local 1010. At 4:20pm on March 10, 2017, a load from the crane fell off and struck him. Veloso was alert when it first happened, but soon afterwards suffered pain and shortness of breath. Tragically, he passed away from trauma and cardiac arrest less than an hour later.
It is unclear how the load fell off the crane, whether it was a snapped wire or other issue. We anticipate the Buildings Department will release the cause of the load failure at the end of their examination.
The timing of the investigation is significant, as it came after non-union workers, who are members of Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, voiced concerns over the lesser public outrage of this incident to the Buildings Department. The accident happened at a Staten Island union site.
Tension between the non-union and union construction sectors has been on-going for a while now, as a greater portion of construction work that used to be held largely by union workers has been given to non-union laborers. In New York State, the percentage of jobs in the private construction industry held by union workers has been slowly declining in the past few decades:
However, there is a general perception that non-union construction work is largely problematic. Wage-wise, the non-union sector lags behind its union counterpart. A recent Economic Policy Institute study highlighted the wage discrepancy between union and non-union workers: on average, non-union laborers in New York City are paid $7.11 less for every hour they work than their union counterparts:
Source: Economic Policy Institute
In a recent Crain’s New York article, the non-union building sector has come under more fire from the administration, especially in light of this study. With the hourly wages reported by the Economic Policy Institute, non-union construction workers would make less than $35,000 a year on average, which conflicts with Major de Blasio’s commitment to producing jobs that pay $50,000 and above.
Undoubtedly, the biggest controversy surrounding the non-union construction industry is the increasing number of preventable workplace fatalities seen on non-union sites. According to the latest report on New York construction fatalities, the majority of worker deaths occurred on non-union sites: 80% in 2014 and 74% in 2015. Scandals of worker exploitation, racism, and wage theft have also tainted public perception of the sector.
Despite the fact that the majority of fatal accidents happened on non-union sites, we applaud the city’s investigation of this accident, as worker’s lives are of the utmost importance, regardless of whether it’s on a union or non-union site. The construction industry sees an abnormally high percentage of workplace fatalities and any insights gleaned from this tragic incident can be used to promote safer workplace practices.
The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy will continue to provide the latest New York construction industry news and insights. As New York City enjoys its building boom, we cannot forget to promote the safety and welfare of the workers that forge this city. In 2016, our accident attorneys achieved 3 of the 5 highest construction settlements in New York State for workers injured on the job. You can learn more by visiting our Construction Accidents Verdicts & Settlements page.