Protesters Claim Construction Safety Legislation Singles Out Black and Latino Construction Workers


More than a dozen protesters, local business owners and construction advocates united to protest City Councilman Jumaane Williams’ (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) safety legislation bill, Intro. 1447.

Intro.1447 or 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.

City Council Member Jumaane Williams said while the protesters were well intentioned, he would never support a bill that would cost these workers their jobs.

The protesters, made up of mostly black and Latino construction workers, claim that the bill singles out non-union, minority workers who are already being marginalized in the competitive construction industry.

“This bill is no good for us. We are not going to be able to work in this town! They don’t care about the people inside our community. Don’t put another stumbling block in front of people who’ve been working 10, 15, 20 years without getting hurt, that will stop them from getting employment,” said Martin Allenpresident of PPEE Construction.

Allen went on to allege that the legislation is a “trick” by local lawmakers and officials to give unions a monopoly over the city’s construction industry. In fact, attendees went on to note that the proposed legislation may force many local residents out of jobs and eventually their communities.

“We need to let these people know that this [legislation] affects everyone, a lot of good people, a lot of good families. And they say it’s about safety. How many people know that safety has been very good lately,” said Robert Gioello, owner of Glo Electric.

But advocates and union members in favor of the bill note it’s part of a larger safety legislation package that aims to curb construction worker deaths and injuries by requiring stronger safety regulations and not about securing jobs.

City Councilmember Jumaane Williams

Williams responded to the protest saying it was great that people are getting involved in the legislative process, but their allegations that his bill would take jobs and contracts away from black and brown workers and business owners in the local community is inaccurate.

“It’s hard to respond to something that won’t happen. Myself and [fellow Council member and co-sponsor of the bill] Carlos Menchaca won’t do anything to take away black and brown jobs. My track record has always been to show great concern and support for MWBE (Minority and Women Business Enterprises) contracts,” said Williams,

Williams went on to highlight the fact that a large percentage of the people dying on construction sites are from black and brown communities.

Intro. 1447 was initially introduced this past February in response to a spike in construction worker deaths. Earlier this year, Jose Cruz, 59, of Sunset Park, plunged to his death at a Times Square construction site after falling off a beam from a second floor. Cruz was reported to be from the Dominican Republic and failed to have the proper safety gear on-site when the incident occurred.

“Government has been provided for reasons to be concerned about construction safety, but we’re not at the finish line and I won’t support a bill that doesn’t address these concerns in a very real way or that unduly affects WMBE contracts,” said Williams.