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Sham Safety Licenses Vs. Authentic Union Training

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Members of Valor Security and Investigations are perp-walked after being charged with issuing sham safety licenses to thousands of non-union construction workers.

If you were looking for an example within the New York construction world highlighting the difference between union professionalism and non-union chicanery, you got a clarifying one on the evening of February 28, 2024. On that night, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the indictment of a company that he said offered “sham safety licenses” to thousands of non-union workers. At the same time in Queens, a class of newly minted union journeymen and women was being celebrated for completing an arduous apprenticeship training program and entering the trade as licensed workers.

To restate this shining example. Non-union = thousands of workers carrying falsified safety licenses. Unions = only workers who have completed a 4,300-hour apprenticeship and training.

The Charge

According to the indictment, the company, Valor Security and Investigations, says that it “trained” 20,000 construction workers over three-plus years. Valor issued them licenses claiming the workers were fully qualified in "safety training, safety inspections, safety plans and security services" after 40 hours of instruction. In fact, according to DA Bragg, Valor issued the "safety certificates and cards without providing any training at all.” But they did collect a fee for each false card issued, between $300 and $600, which amounts to a haul of between $6M and $12M for printing fake cards.

A Death

Compounding the sham, prosecutors said the alleged fraud cost the life of at least one worker. A “safety licensed” non-union worker, Ivan Frías, a 36-year-old New Yorker working for Rennon Construction, fell from the 15th floor of a job site on the Upper West Side in November of 2022. Valor allegedly falsely certified that Mr. Frías had completed 10 hours of safety training, including eight hours of fall protection.

The indictment cites text messages and emails seized from the Valor president Alexander Shaporov allegedly telling his employees to "make one up" for 40 purported trainees who lacked the requisite safety cards.

Bragg highlighted that such "fraud has dire consequences. Fraud can mean life or death.”

Non-union = thousands of workers carrying falsified safety licenses. Unions = only workers who have completed a 4,300-hour apprenticeship and training.

The Opposite Approach

On the same evening of the announced charges, New York City unions local 18A, 6A and 20 all celebrated their latest graduating class of apprentices who enter the workforce legitimately licensed and ready to go.

New union man Ibn-Rashid Cooper said, “Yeah, this is a dangerous profession, but I feel that with all the training I got here [at the Liuna Training Center in Astoria], I feel really safe when I’m working. I’m ready for it, you know?”

Another new graduate, David Tamayo Isae, said, “I worked non-union. It was scary. What counts as safety on those jobs is really scary. Especially since I’ve been training here [at Liuna] and I see what safety really looks like. There’s no comparison.”

Unions are Committed to Training

And to add further testament to the unions’ commitment to member safety, on this same night of symbolism, a group of 20-plus union men attended an evening training course at the Liuna Training Center across the hall from the graduation ceremony. These union members were being instructed on climber/tower crane rigging, a 30-hour course that would lead to a certification in the skill. This session was being led by union man and instructor Billy Loria.

One union member attending that course, Juan Portorreal of local 6A, said, “In this union they just keep training you. Your whole career, you keep learning and getting better and better.” Mr. Portorreal had worked non-union before taking a trial work test and entering the union. He said, “safety there [on non-union jobs] was ridiculous. I’m in a much, much better place now.”

Annual safety training is required on New York construction sites. Department of Building inspectors will check for the safety licenses. Apparently at least 20,000 non-union workers are carrying paper that falsely claims they’ve met their requirement, which, as proven by what happened to Mr. Frías, puts all of them at risk.

New York cannot afford non-union anymore.

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