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ABC Asks for Drug Testing in NYC Construction

Monday, May 15, 2017

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The Empire State chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors—a non-union organization—has asked the New York City Council to consider adding mandatory alcohol and drug testing to its slew of construction bills up for consideration.

In a letter penned to council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and council member Jumaane Williams, Brian Sampson, the group’s chapter president, asked the legislators to consider adding the testing provision to Intro. 1447.

© iStock.com/JANIFEST

The Empire State chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors—a non-union organization—has asked the New York City Council to consider adding mandatory alcohol and drug testing to its slew of construction bills up for consideration.

“As the City Council considers amendments to Int. 1447, we urge you to strengthen the legislation with a provision mandating drug and alcohol testing for all New York City construction workers,” Sampson wrote. “This long-overdue mandate would play a crucial role in your efforts to increase construction safety and would undoubtedly save lives in one of the city’s most dangerous industries.”

The letter added that drug and alcohol testing is common in other industries, specifically naming baseball players and customer service representatives.

"Why would we not apply at least the same standard to construction workers?” the letter read.

Last month, the council approved six of 21 construction-related pieces of legislation, including stricter rules on reporting fatalities and safety violations. The council tabled, Intro. 1447, however. That bill is already seen by some as controversial by mandating an apprenticeship program that some view as an obstacle toward non-union groups.

Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, rebuked the ABC letter, and said that there’s no evidence that suggests drugs and alcohol played a part in any of the fatal accidents in the city. Moreover, he says, it violates privacy.

© iStock.com/KLH49

Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, rebuked the ABC letter, and said that there’s no evidence that suggests drugs and alcohol played a part in any of the fatal accidents in the city.

“This letter is nothing more than a diversionary attempt by irresponsible developers and non-union contractors to scapegoat workers, shift the blame to victims, and cover up for their own poor safety record which puts profits over worker safety,” LaBarbera wrote.

Josue Reap, the vice president of the ABC chapter, said that the organization was “surprised and disappointed” by LaBarbera’s statement.

“Union leaders are well aware that many construction incidents are the result of drug and alcohol use, which is unacceptable,” Reap said. “We believe that addressing the problem of drugs and alcohol in one of the world’s most dangerous industries will benefit all construction workers and help keep more people safe.”

A spokesperson for Mark-Viverito said that she was reviewing the proposal.

   

Tagged categories: Business management; Construction; Government; Labor; Laws and litigation; Workers

Comment from Jesse Melton, (5/15/2017, 7:58 AM)

Drug testing for baseball players isn't about safety. It's part of the MLB image management program. I'm not sure that NYC construction workers have that type of image to maintain.

When justifications for something are that far off base (Ha!) you have to question the motives behind it. It makes you wonder if the person making comparisons way out in left field is on drugs themselves.

It's always interesting to see how drug testing supporters come to a hard, short stop when the targets of the testing want the testers to be subject to the same policies. They always cry foul and it gives you a really good look at how they actually view themselves in comparison to the commoners. When it comes to drug testing for managers they just won't play ball.


Comment from Jody Favia, (5/15/2017, 8:42 AM)

Another BS excuse from the union protecting workers for the wrong reason. When is drug testing a bad thing? Employers get punished by osha whenever an employee breaks any of their rules. It has gotten so bad that company safety write up employees for the simplest infraction, creating an atmosphere of division in the field vs office


Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/15/2017, 11:02 AM)

It's not New York, but up here, getting on to many of the "big" company worksites in the oil and gas sector includes pre-access drug and alcohol screening as well as the potential for random (which is strongly contested) and post-incident screenings (also contested, but to a lesser degree) during your time on site. Sure, there are privacy concerns (i.e. what you do on your time is up to you)....but it needs to be weighed against your recreational activities making you a liability to yourself and others on the job. If a qualified, professional laboratory is doing the screenings (vs. some "dude" on the site) and it is done in a confidential manner (including dealing with the circumstances of a positive result) then I think it can be a good way to deal with the potentially lethal issue of impairment on the job.


Comment from Leah Beverly-Basye, (5/15/2017, 2:20 PM)

Yes, M. Halliwell, it is just part of the culture of the oil & gas industry and, across countless business types. We have many potential customers both in the USA and abroad will not even consider using companies that do not have a good safety (including a drug & alcohol) policy with accountability in place & subject to audits both internally and by the potential customer as well a third party. It is often likely that if your TRIR is not below well below1%, you can forget being considered for a contract.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (5/16/2017, 8:23 AM)

How many workers are injured by trying to meet goals established by management who set the goals with reasoning impaired by drugs and/or alcohol?

Meetings of senior leadership in every industry are often little more than private parties. It's a lot of fun, but the decisions are made under circumstances that would invalidate contracts. How can those same circumstances be considered acceptable for decision making when lives are at stake?

Drug and alcohol testing are fine, but the rules have to apply to everyone in any industry where the testing is mandatory. You can endanger more people while wearing a $5,000 suit in the executive suite than any workers on a site.


Comment from John Fauth, (5/16/2017, 8:45 AM)

Jesse, it seems to me that dodging common sense safety practices in the construction industry puts quite a few people at risk.


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