Labor Day 2023: Exploring the impact of the construction industry
- June 30, 2023
- By cdlaw350
Construction workers are often underappreciated. There are about 350,000 construction workers in the state of New York, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only do they not perform incredible work, but they also take incredible risks every day they’re on the job.
On September 6, 2021 (on Labor Day, appropriately enough), Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law four critically important pieces of legislation. Not only will they help protect the physical health of construction workers, but they’ll also help their financial health, too.
As Labor Day 2023 approaches, it’s only fitting that we take a closer look at not only the holiday in general but also at the steps Governor Hochul has taken to help protect some of our state’s most vital workers.
History of Labor Day
A lot of us celebrate Labor Day on the beach or by taking a well-deserved break at home, but we probably don’t give a lot of thought to what the day really means. This holiday celebrates American workers, recognizing the contributions they make in order to make our country what it is.
Congress made it an official holiday on June 28, 1894, but efforts to recognize this special day preceded it for several years. Although New York was actually the first state in the nation to introduce a bill to set aside a day to honor workers, on February 21, 1887, Oregon became the first state to pass a law creating a Labor Day holiday.
Recap of recent labor laws in New York
It’s important for construction workers to have a clear understanding of the measures signed into law by Governor Hochul. Not only do these new laws help improve workplace safety, they also help put more money into their pockets. The following is a brief rundown of the changes that went into effect in 2022.
Carlos’ Law (S.621B/A.4947B)
Governor Huchul signed a state bill commonly known as “Carlos’ Law” into being on December 22, 2022. The law is named for Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old undocumented worker who died in a 2015 trench collapse near the High Line in Manhattan.
Two years after Carlos’ death, a judge found Harco Construction, the company overseeing the site where Moncayo was killed, guilty of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment.
Among other measures, Hochul’s bill:
- Increases the penalty for safety crimes on construction sites by 50 times the former amount
- Minimum fine for a felony charge is now $500,000 (up from $10,000)
- Minimum fine for a misdemeanor charge is now $300,000 (up from $5,000)
- Expands the definition of employees to include subcontractors and day laborers
Speed surveillance in work zones (S.4682B)
Construction workers face danger on a regular basis simply while doing their jobs. Those working in highway construction zones are even more at risk–more than 2,000 workers were killed in road construction zones from 2003-2019.
Legislation S.4682-B/A.485-B establishes a system of deploying cameras in road work zones to help identify drivers who are putting workers’ lives in jeopardy by speeding. If a camera catches a driver speeding in the road work zone, a ticket will then be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. First offenders will pay a $50 fine, those who commit this violation twice will have to pay $75, and the fine will increase to $100 for a third or subsequent violation.
Full and honest payment (S2766C)
This portion of the law, A.3350-A/S.2766-C, makes it harder for unscrupulous contractors to not pay workers for the services they perform. There are certain instances where a subcontractor will simply leave a job site, leaving workers with nothing. This new law amends the state’s wage theft law, making it more likely that exploited construction personnel will get what they deserve.
Prevailing wages (A7434A)
For far too long, building service workers have earned substandard wages. They often have to skip meals to save money, and they can’t afford even a basic health insurance plan. S.6350-A/A.7434-A aims to rectify that situation.
Any condominiums or co-ops that receive state tax abatements must pay service employees a prevailing wage. This means workers must receive pay at the same rate that similarly employed workers receive on average.
Shared work benefits
S.4049/A.5678 changes the Shared Work benefits cap from 26 consecutive weeks to an amount equal to 26 weeks of a worker’s benefits. It’s designed to help employers keep people on staff by allowing them to work reduced hours while they receive a portion of their unemployment insurance benefits.
Two ways for employers to help construction workers improve
These changes to New York’s labor law are not only welcome, but they should make a huge impact on workers in the construction industry. Still, there are other ways employers can help these professionals thrive. Below are just two of them.
Provide opportunities to broaden skill sets
The more skills a construction worker has, of course, the better positioned they’ll be to maximize their potential salary. One way to potentially do this is by implementing job rotation or giving employees different tasks on a construction site. This not only gives workers a chance to expand their skills, but it also helps employers fill sudden vacancies when a worker is hurt, gets sick, or leaves the company.
Give workers more opportunities to work on projects in their own neighborhoods
Construction workers do more than build structures. In many instances, they’re building communities. What better way to incentivize them than by providing them the chance to work in the same areas where they raise their families? New construction means more jobs – not just for the people who help erect buildings, but also for those who occupy them.
Many construction workers live in underserved communities. By assigning them to projects in their own neighborhoods, they will take even more pride in their work.
We celebrate the contributions made by workers of all trades
This Labor Day, construction workers will be on the minds of the attorneys at Carner & DeVita. We are passionate about protecting their rights and always do everything possible to ensure they are fairly compensated when a work-related accident results in an injury.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, call us as soon as you can to learn more about how we may be able to help. A Long Island construction accident lawyer with Carner & DeVita will be ready to help if you’re ever injured on the job. If you would like to learn more, or you’d like a free review of your case, don’t hesitate to contact us online or call (631) 543-7070.
Contact us today!