Panel of appellate judges sides with city in long-simmering legal battle over how crane operators get licensed
According to Crain’s New York a construction union lost a years-long court battle with the city over crane-operator licensing Tuesday. But despite the defeat, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B will likely maintain a virtual monopoly over the industry in New York City.
A panel of appellate court judges ruled that the city can use operators licensed under a national test administered by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which the de Blasio administration had argued was safer and more modern. Traditionally, the city required operators to pass a locally administered license test.
“We are gratified the court agreed that these regulations were rationally adopted in the interest of public safety,” a spokesman from the city’s Law Department said in a statement.
But the union countered that the national test is not adequate to safely prepare crane operators for the unique building environment in New York City. Local 14 plans to appeal the panel’s decision, which stated that the union did not have sufficient standing to sue the city in the first place. It is unclear whether the state’s highest court will take up the case or let Tuesday’s ruling stand.
“We are disappointed by the decision, and we will appeal,” Ed Christian, business manager for the union, said in a statement. “We are especially troubled that the court has determined that the operators, who are responsible for the safety of hundreds of construction workers and thousands of pedestrians who pass beneath our job sites every day, would have no standing on this critical safety issue.”
Despite the loss, the union won a key part of the original dispute and will remain in a position to hold almost all the crane licenses in the city.
When the litigation began in 2012, the city allowed crane operators to work in New York if they had mandatory on-the-job experience in other urban areas across the country. Such a provision would have opened up the door to outside firms that haven’t necessarily operated cranes in New York City. These crane operators would have cut into Local 14’s dominance here.
Last fall, a judge prevented that practice from continuing and later ruled against the city. And when the de Blasio administration appealed, which led to Tuesday’s ruling, the city dropped the argument altogether and focused on the national testing requirements for crane operators.