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NY Can’t Afford Non-Union Pt. 2: The Cost to Workers


No matter how hard the monied and powerful interests try, New York will forever be a union town. Source: New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Bt Mark Colangelo

Though it is often billed as the “cheaper” option, the reality is that non-union construction comes with costs that New York can’t afford. In part one of this series, we focused on how non-union contractors cost everyday New Yorkers by dodging taxes, straining our social safety programs, and tarnishing our skyline with unfinished eye-sores. In part two, we’re taking a closer look at how non-union construction practices directly impact workers.

1. Higher Risk of Death

The most recent Occupational Health And Safety Administration data shows that more than 90% of construction fatalities happen on non-union job sites. Construction is inherently dangerous and the lack of training, safety protocols and oversight on non-union jobs can quickly turn into a death sentence for unlucky workers.


Non-union-run work sites are more than five times more dangerous than union sites, so it's no surprise that more than 80% of construction site deaths are non-union.

2. Lack of Health Insurance

Healthcare benefits are non-existent for many non-union workers, especially those misclassified as independent contractors. Without health insurance, non-union workers and their families face financial peril in the event of a medical emergency. There is estimated to be over $220 billion in medical debt in this country, a significant portion of which has been accrued due to a lack of employee provided health insurance.

Non-union construction not only threatens the health and safety of workers, it undermines the economic stability of families and communities across the state.

3. Wage Theft

Despite legislative progress, like the passing of the Wage Theft bill, the practice remains rampant in the non-union sector. Workers may be underpaid for the amount of hours they work, denied overtime pay, or not paid at all for certain duties. This exploitation often goes unchecked on non-union job sites and costs workers billions of dollars each year.

4. No Disability Leave

Non-union construction workers are frequently deprived of disability leave, meaning that any injury or illness that prevents them from working can lead to a direct loss of income. In the dangerous world of construction, where injuries are commonplace, a minor mishap can trigger a cascade of financial consequences that can leave families out on the street.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and a blogger.

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