According to the US Department of Labor (US DOL), the construction industry has the highest rate of current drug users (15.6%) as compared to any other industry in the United States. As the city of New York grapples with trying to reduce their alarming rate of injuries and fatalities on construction sites, the New York chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has proposed that lawmakers add mandatory drug and alcohol testing for construction workers to the law books, according to the New York Daily News.
It should come as no surprise that ABC would be against drug and alcohol use on job sites, as the organization is a founding member of the Construction Coalition for a Drug-and Alcohol- Free Workplace (CCDAFW). In a letter to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and chair of the buildings committee, Jumaane Williams, ABC New York President Brian Sampson wrote, “The reality is that drugs and alcohol are likely among the leading causes of injury to construction workers. It would be strange to pass worksite safety legislation while ignoring such a major negative factor in the industry.”
ABC NY, an advocate group for merit shop contractors, is battling against primarily union groups on this and several other issues. Gary LaBarbera, president of the NYC Building and Construction Trades Council sees the drug testing proposal as a way to punish the workers, telling the NY Daily News that, “This letter is nothing more than a diversionary attempt by irresponsible developers and nonunion contractors to scapegoat workers, shift the blame to victims, and cover up for their own poor safety record which puts profits over worker safety.”
Unfriendly words have also been exchanged through the media about the union’s recent push to require new workers to first pass apprenticeship and training programs, before they could work on buildings over 9 stories tall. A scathing NY Post article called that proposal a “phony push for construction site safety” and ABC NY was happy to post that article on their blog.
While both sides are actively working to increase construction site safety, a clearly noble cause, it seems as though the battle between union and non-union is getting in the way. As construction workers are dying on the job site, now is probably a good time to quit playing politics and start working together for a common good.