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Nashville Council and Unions Support Proposed Bill Aiming to Improve Construction Worker Safety

Construction Worker Safety Meeting

Nashville Majority Council and Unions Promote Bill to Boost Construction Worker Safety

The majority of the Nashville council, in unison with labor unions, is supporting a new proposed bill intended to significantly enhance the safety of workers in the construction industry. Council member Sandra Sepulveda of District 30 introduced the bill on Tuesday, aiming to establish a board to oversee the safety and wage equity of Metro’s existing construction projects.

Protecting Workers and Setting Standards

According to Council member Sepulveda, “(Metro) Nashville plays an influential role as one of the major buyers of construction projects in Nashville. With this in mind, it is vitally important to set the benchmark for safety standards.” Currently, 26 council members co-sponsor the bill, which has already passed the first of three readings.

This is not Sepulveda’s first foray into legislation that intends to fortify worker protection protocols in the Music City. A similar bill she proposed in 2021, which included workplace safety and equitable pay stipulations in the city’s contract tendering criteria, was preempted by Tennessee’s legislature.

The Scope and Role of the Proposed Board

The proposed board, composed of five members and a non-voting council member, will assess and monitor Metro’s construction contracts to guarantee compliance with Metro’s equal business opportunity program. In addition, this board will have the power to inspect work sites and scrutinize complaints about projects involving the Metro government. However, without its own enforcement authority, any disturbing findings or issues from the inspections would be referred to state or federal regulators.

Addressing Challenges and Gaps

“Federal agencies like OSHA and TOSHA lack the resources and workforce to thoroughly inspect every construction site – a gap this new board aims to bridge,” said Sepulveda. “By strengthening our capacity to carry out inspections, we fortify our contracts and ensure Metro’s best interests are preserved. The critical question weighing on everyone’s mind is: How far is Metro willing to go to guarantee the safety and fair treatment of our construction workers?”

Nashville’s Tragic Past and Strong Resolve

Several tragic incidents have underlined the dire need for this legislation. Both Gustavo Enrique Ramirez, a 16-year-old construction worker who tragically died while working on a La Quinta Inn project roof in 2020, and Denis Geovani Ba Ché, 20, who lost his life in a roof repair at Glencliff High School in 2023, were grievous reminders of the price of inadequate worker safety measures.

Support for the bill isn’t waning despite these hurdles. The proposed worker safety board requires a budget for hiring an executive director and inspectors, which council member Delishia Porterfield said could cost about $500,000. Though Nashville’s upcoming budget is tight, Porterfield confirmed the board’s financing is a priority. She commits to work closely with the Finance Department to explore avenues to fund this investment in worker safety.

Unions Echo Call for Safety Oversight

Representatives from labor unions also support the bill. Ethan Link, Vice President representing the Laborers’ International Union of North America on the Tennessee Central Labor Council, accused the contractors of negligence in not ensuring the safety guidelines were adhered to. “The lives and well-being of our workers are paramount. We cannot let contractor negligence and the absence of oversight lead to more tragedies,” he said.

A heartfelt plea for justice also came from Alonzo Alvarex Choc, a family member of Denis Geovani Ba Ché. He claims that the bill could prevent future heartrending events such as the one that befell their family. “I am here to seek justice for the Tennessee working class and to help eliminate the risks that resulted in our family’s devastating loss,” said Choc.

Nashville Council and Unions Support Proposed Bill Aiming to Improve Construction Worker Safety

HERE Nashville
Author: HERE Nashville

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