Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade is underway, but the question is whether or not the motion will result in good construction jobs that will lead to long-term employment or just more low-wage jobs with lots of turnover and high risk of injury or death.
Nearly 80% of construction fatalities in NYC occur in non-union jobs, in addition to substandard wages and non-existent benefits. Immigrant workers are typically working in these non-union worksites, are not properly trained and tend to feel pressured to take shortcuts on the job, increasing their risk of injury on the job.
Construction continues to be the single most dangerous industry in New York City. Those advocates concerned with the health and safety of workers think the affordable housing plan is a mistake and will just create and maintain low-wage, dangerous jobs for workers.
“If you’re looking at a progressive housing plan, it has to include creating good jobs for New Yorkers”, says Charlene Obernauer, executive director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health [NYCOSH]. ”From our perspective, any plan that talks about affordable housing, needs to also think about union construction.”
Mayor de Blasio said that the city’s economic inequality has created a “painful reality where more and more New Yorkers are spending more and more to cover their housing costs, and entire neighborhoods have lost their affordability.” Others argue that failing to embrace union labor not only endangers workers, but it also undermines the mayor’s efforts to combat rising economic inequality.