Construction group blasts Council proposal on apprenticeships

By GLORIA PAZMINO, CAPITAL NEW YORK 5:10 a.m. | Dec. 21, 2015 

The president of a construction trade association that represents more than 400 chapters statewide says legislation Councilman Corey Johnson has recently introduced favors unions at the expense of the private construction industry.

Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, is introducing legislation that would require construction at buildings that are 10 stories or higher to be performed by laborers who have completed mandatory apprentice training — a program specifically run by unions.

“In light of your recent announcement of legislation requiring construction apprenticeships, I am writing to urge you not to introduce that bill until you engage other industry stakeholders in a fair and substantive dialogue,” Brian Sampson, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors chapter in New York, wrote to Johnson in a tersely worded letter late last week.

Johnson's proposal is coming under fire from some developers, who have privately argued it is an attempt by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York to increase its union membership.

Those who support apprenticeship programs argue completing the mandatory training helps workers become better educated about how to safely perform their jobs.

But Associated Builders and Contractors says Johnson has no data to back up his claims that apprenticeships lead to a safer industry.

“You have claimed that mandating apprenticeships for buildings above 10 stories would improve worksite safety, but you have provided no evidence to support that,” Sampson wrote in his letter to Johnson. “In fact, the majority of construction fatalities in New York City over the past five years have taken place on worksites for buildings below 10 stories, according to New York City Dept. of Buildings data.”

In a statement to POLITICO New York, Johnson did not directly address whether he would meet with the group but said he will consider all arguments as his bill is negotiated.

“We look forward to addressing the issue of safety conditions at construction sites in New York," Johnson said. "Any legislation that is introduced will be considered through the legislative process.”