Gonzalez Nabs Carpenter’s Union Endorsement


Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today received the endorsement of the city’s carpenters union, but his spokesperson stressed he will not get involved in pending legislation that would give construction unions more control over construction sites.

New York’s construction industry is highly dangerous for workers and workplace fatality rates have increased over the years. From January 1, 2015 to date, there have been 35 worker deaths at construction sites across the city. Most of these deaths have occurred at non-union work sites by inexpensive, unskilled labor.

Gonzalez on May 10 charged Michael Wiess, 47, the owner of construction companies RSBY NY Builders Inc. and Park Ave Builders Inc., with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and other offenses.for causing the death of 19-year-old Fernando Vanegaz.

Weiss allegedly ordered Vanegaz to do non-permitted excavation work on a Myrtle Avenue construction site in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Sept. 2015, and a wall collapsed killing Vanegaz and seriously injuring two other workers.

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez

“I am very proud to have this endorsement because this means a lot to me. My family came from a working class background and that is how we brought ourselves up through good wages. We have a lot of buildings yet to build in this city and in this great borough. But we have to make sure that workers are being treated rightfully and that unskilled, untrained and often undocumented, immigrant workers are all treated fairly because we can’t allow them to lose their lives because their being undervalued,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez went on to say that he plans on allocating more resources from the DA’s office to labor safety and investigating cases of unsafe working conditions, specifically cases in which a worker is harmed or killed on the job site.

“I think it sends a message that the District Attorney is focused, that he isn’t going to cut corners and is going to make this a priority in his office. The DA has a lot of responsibilities in his office but for him to continue DA Thompson’s legacy on the Fraud Unit by putting resources and dedicated personnel on these cases is going to make it very clear to all those out there that putting people in harm’s’ way for the sake of profit is not tolerated,” said Steve McInnis, President of the NYC District Council of Carpenters.

The DA’s Fraud Unit is in charge of handling matters dealing with Immigrant and Labor Fraud including employees who exploit their labor or cut costs when it comes to construction site safety.

McInnis went on to state that the union is pushing for legislation, specifically Intro. 1447, to pass in the City Council within the coming weeks. The controversial bill, also known as the Apprenticeship Safety Bill, would require construction workers to complete an apprenticeship program for any construction work sites of 10 stories or larger and demolition work sites of four stories or larger.

The proposed bill is part of a larger construction safety legislation package introduced in February.

However, apprenticeship programs are largely run by building trade unions which have a history of not accepting minorities into their programs. Although, unions say that history has changed and they now include many minorities.

Gonzalez spokesperson Lupe Todd-Medina said Gonzalez does not have a position on the bill.

“The DA is a prosecutor, not a legislator. He will do whatever is within his power under the law to hold unscrupulous builders accountable for their actions,” Todd-Medina said..