Construction Industry needs Scaffold Law

Changes to the Scaffold Law have been at the crux of recent discussions in the construction industry. In New York, 2016 and 2015 were statistically the deadliest years for construction workers-dozens of articles recording deaths due to improper equipment were published. In late 2017, two workers fell to their deaths during the same day on separate projects in the city.

Many businesses are citing unnecessary regulations on businesses, higher insurance costs for businesses, and higher taxes as reasons not to proceed with the updates to the Scaffold Law. However, an article recently published stated that this was one of a number of myths surrounding the Scaffold Law. One of the most damning points listed is that most people don’t actually know what construction insurance premiums look like. In the article linked above, Harry Bronson from the New York State Assembly simply puts:

“Third, the facts about insurance premiums. We don’t have them because insurers won’t disclose them. Insurance companies are in the business of risk analysis based on data. Policy decisions should be made based on data. It is disturbing that insurance carriers refuse to disclose the truth about construction liability insurance premiums. Indeed, if the Scaffold Safety Law were legitimately a financial burden, then one would think that insurers would be eager to validate their position and put the information forward.”

While some are squabbling about red tape, costs, and taxes, NYCOSH published a report called The Deadly Skyline. The report appropriately starts with an in Memoriam section for those who were killed due to falls at sites, listing names, ages and locations. The youngest on the list was 19. One would think even those opposing the bill can agree, worker safety is priceless. The precursor to this was when a number of NYCOSH reports related construction injuries and fatalities to union or non-union work sites. These NYCOSH reports showed a greater likelihood to get injured on a non-union project, and that Latino workers’ had a greater likelihood for wage theft and of dying on a work site.

NYCOSH puts forth a number of suggestions as additions to the Scaffold Law in the report:

“In response to the health and safety crisis facing New York’s construction workers, NYCOSH has a series of recommendations. NYCOSH continues its call to protect the Scaffold Safety Law, which grants injured construction workers who fall on the job the right to sue an employer who puts their life in danger. NYCOSH is also calling for new legislation to increase penalties for companies that willingly violate the law and cause a worker fatality, and to revoke the licenses of criminal contractors who were convicted of felonies in the case of a worker death. Finally, NYCOSH recommends increased training for workers, like apprenticeship programs on large construction projects, OSHA 10s on all construction sites, and licensing for elevator construction workers.”

There is no report that could be made that would invalidate the need to not only uphold the Scaffold Law, but to also add NYCOSH’s suggestions to the legislation. When the safety and lives of workers are at risk, businesses should do what they can to protect them. This includes longer training, safer work sites, and generally better employer practices amongst the construction industry.

Links

Letter: NY Scaffold Law protects construction workers

OUR VIEW: Scaffold Law hurts businesses in New York

Misinformation muddies discussion about Scaffold Safety Law

Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State

City Council can protect NYC workers from construction accidents by mandating better training

NYC official urges city to classify construction site accidents as union or nonunion

EXCLUSIVE: NYC urged to release info on construction accidents to show whether union jobs are safer

Why we need to Protect our unions from Janus

A Supreme Court case with a 40-year precedent has been brought back to the future. On February 26th, the Supreme Court began hearings on Janus vs. AFSCME and the constitutionality of compulsory Fair Share fees. These fees are paid by non-union employees who work in unionized jobs but are still represented by the union during contract negotiations and collective bargaining. The 1977 precursor to this, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, determined that fees by non-union members could not be used for political purposes. Janus’ response to this is that unions are inherently political due to the activities of negotiating, bargaining, and the general goings-on that give union employees a voice in their workplace. Many expect the case to have a verdict by June. On top of that similar cases in the past have shown an unfavorable pattern for unions, noted in an article on USA Today:

“The court has ruled 7-2, 5-4 and 4-4 on three similar cases in the past six years, eating away at that 1977 decision without overruling it entirely. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a month after oral argument denied conservatives their fifth vote — a vote Justice Neil Gorsuch is widely expected to provide.”

While opponents of the law are citing free speech as the main issue at hand, those supporting the law are drawing on the fact that many of the opponents are those who want to see a complete deregulation of business and workers rights.

New York is the most unionized state in the U.S., with hundreds of unions representing thousands of those who make our lives livable. Roughly 70% of public employees in New York belong to a union. Firefighters, police officers, correction officers, nurses, bus drivers, train operators, engineers, sanitation workers-the list is virtually endless. According to an article written in New York Times, 27% of federal employees belong to a union. On February 24th, dubbed Working Peoples Day of Action, two of New York’s leaders and thousands of union members protested and made their position clear-they will not stand to have Janus overturned.

Many unions are saying that overturning Janus would pull funding away from the very things that make unions so important. Union’s provide the opportunity for each employee to have their voice heard, and heard loud. The expected decision of this would hinder the chance for employees to have a say in their work place, their administration, wages, and more. They provide the opportunity for a say in pensions, health care-things that are imperative to the families of union employees. Dismantling the financial structure of such an important force would be detrimental to union employees, union families, and the city and state systems that unions work for.

Links

Cuomo, de Blasio rally with unions over pending court ruling

Massive Labor-Rights Rally Set for Feb. 24

Supreme Court may deal major blow to labor unions

Federal Unions Show How to Survive Even Without Agency Fees

A Supreme Court Showdown Could Shrink Unions’ Power

Continued battle for 9/11 First Responders benefits

Recently, the civil service publication The Chief Leader published several articles discussing the state of 9/11-related disability claims being processed at NYCERS. Statistically, WTC Disability claims are on the chopping block. More are being denied than approved, and the ones that are usually denied take years to be evaluated. Other issues at hand are transparency during the process of filing and overall treatment of claims and claimants by the Medical Board.

Our partner, Sean Riordan, Esq. and several other WTC Disability advocates met with the leading members of NYCERS to address the sluggish turnover rate, the unfortunately high denial rate, and ways to fix the two. Though issues of the handling of claims and claimants is still present, the meeting was regarded as positive:

“On Dec. 7, Melanie Whinnery, the system’s Executive Director, and Ilyse Sisolak, its General Counsel, met with John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, Sean Riordan, legal counsel for the FealGood Foundation, Ben Chevat, the executive director of 9/11 Health Watch, and attorneys Matthew McCauley and Michael Barasch, who specialize in WTC disability claims.

Also in attendance was Dr. Michael Crane, the medical director at the WTC Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai. The meeting lasted 90 minutes.

Both sides were upbeat about the value of the meeting and the prospects for finding common ground going forward. The 9/11-disability advocates presented NYCERS with a four-page memo obtained by this newspaper that highlights dozens of areas where the process could be more transparent and less adversarial, according to the advocates.”, as quoted from the article linked below.

NYCERS, WTC Disability Advocates Meet About Improving Responsiveness

An Urgent Message On Behalf Of Our Firm

HELP US STOP THE ATTACK ON WORKERS’ COMPENSATION! 

Below are several ways you can stand with us in opposition against these changes:

Sign these two petitions to make your voice known-Petition from AFL-CIO and Petition at MoveOn.org

Mail this postcard to the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board with a message to help you stand up for your rights.

Email your state senator stating your opposition to the changes. If you don’t know who your senator is, click here for the Senate’s website to find out.

THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ENDS OCTOBER 23RD.

Follow the above methods to protect your rights before the comment period is over.


This past April, the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board was given the green-light to draft changes to the way payments are calculated for permanent injuries to extremities (Schedule Loss of Use evaluations). These suggestions were completed September 1st, and they ultimately resulted in drastic cuts to claimant’s benefits and, in many cases, elimination of any payment at all beyond the payment for lost time, even in cases where a fracture is sustained or surgery is necessary.

Sustaining a permanent work injury is already a stressful and life changing situation.   The current benefit calculations very often don’t even compensate an injured worker adequately for what they have lost both physically and economically.  Now, the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board and the New York Business community have just taken the next step in making it that much more difficult for claimant’s to get back up on their feet.

These guidelines call for the removal of rights that are intrinsic to the purpose of Worker’s Compensation Law. On top of drastic cuts to benefits during recovery, the guidelines provide greater discretion to the employers and IMEs. This will essentially create an environment of exploitation by those who oversee the injured party. These guidelines were not made in the interest of injured workers, and go against the foundation of what this law is supposed to do.

These proposed regulation and guideline changes are not only an egregious attempt to sharply reduce and/ or eliminate compensation awards to our injured members, they would also strip tens of thousands of injured workers of very important protections and due process rights by affording the employer/carrier doctors the ability to question the worker on non-medical issues, with associated penalties for “failure to comply” with the doctors’ inquiries. This is completely contrary to the purposes and intent of the NYS Workers Compensation Law, a law which has been in existence for over 100 years and was designed to protect those very same injured workers.

It is important to remember that, with the passing of the NYS Workers Compensation Law, the right of injured workers to sue their employers in cases of permanent injury was eliminated in exchange for a system which provides fair compensation for lost time and especially for permanent loss of functioning in extremity injuries. Should these new regulations be approved, our injured members will be left with little or no recourse when they sustain permanent loss of functioning of extremities while performing their work activities.

If adopted, these proposed regulation and guideline changes will certainly adversely affect our members. As a result, I implore you to take any and all action to help stop these proposals from taking effect.

NYCERS denies NYC EMT disability, MDASR steps up.

MDASR, LLP wins another important ¾’s Article 78 case!

An FDNY EMT suffered severe illnesses and injuries related to her heroic actions during the 9/11 clean-up operations. After being initially denied ¾’s Disability Retirement benefits from the New York City Employees Retirement System (“NYCERS”), a Supreme Court judge found that the NYCERS Medical Board acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in finding her not disabled. This represents a legal finding that NYCERS acted without “any credible evidence” to support its decision. The judge went on to note that the NYCERS Medical Board did not counter the EMT’s own treating physicians, nor those of the FDNY’s own physicians who had all found her incapable of performing the full duties required of an EMT. More importantly, the judge also found that the NYCERS Medical Board had failed to discuss the specific job duties and responsibilities required of an EMT, nor how our client could do the job despite her well documented physical limitations.

MDASR continues to help level the playing field for injured workers seeking disability benefits. If you were injured as a result of your job, call us today at (631) 665-0609.

 

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

NYPD gears up after London attack in wake of proposed budget cut

Last week, the Trump administration released their plan for a 10% spike in military spending. Roughly $700 million in federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security would be cut, according to an article posted on Newsday.com. These are the same grants that provide funding for counterterrorism efforts for local law enforcement agencies across the country, affecting everything from equipment to manpower. An estimated $110 million in DHS grants would be cut from their budget. Considering the NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the country, this kind of cut to their nearly $5 Billion budget is worrisome, to say the least. Senator Chuck Schumer and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill appeared in Washington DC to show how important this funding is. Commissioner O’Neill stated in a New York Daily News article, “This is critical for our operation… that $110 million represents about 600 cops. I don’t think there’s clearer terms than that.” The $110 Million cut is just one estimated slash. An article on NYMag.com says that the cut could be as high has $190 million. Schumer told New York Daily News that in 2016 the NYPD received $180 million in DHS grants for the same kind of programs and operations that would be defunded under the currently proposed budget plan, which means that all or most of what the NYPD has to support their counterterrorism programs would be taken away.

This came shortly before a terror attack in London this week. New York City and the NYPD responded by ramping up security at its British locations, according to Newsday. The British Consulate General and the U.K. Mission to the U.N. are just two locations that have been given extra security. Most of the security for these locations came from the NYPD’s Critical Response Command, a team that would greatly feel the weight of the budget cuts, along with other crucial counterterrorism programs. Schumer has been successful in stopping these kinds of budget cuts to the city in the past, and we can only hope he and Commissioner O’Neill are successful in stopping this now.

Please see the articles below for sources and further information.

London attack: NYPD steps up security at British locations in NYC

EXCLUSIVE: NYPD top cop James O’Neill visits Washington to battle Trump’s security funding cuts

NYPD top cop James O’Neill says Trump’s budget would severely impede the city’s fight against terrorism

Schumer: Trump would cut $200M from NYPD anti-terrorism, other funds

NYPD Commissioner Says Trump’s Budget Would ‘Hobble’ Counterterrorism Efforts

 

New WC bills put worker at risk

Three new bills have been supported by the Business Council of New York as reforms to workers’ compensation insurance. In no subtle manner, the Business Council specifically favors the employer and insurance carrier in each of these bills, citing that some awards give too much back to the injured worker for too long a period of time. The most recent of the three was introduced at the beginning of this month.

All three proposed Bills currently hold an “In Committee” status according to the New York Senate website. Bill A5977 addresses impairment guidelines for Schedule Loss of Use awards, or SLU awards. Bill A6218 aims to limit workers’ compensation benefits for partial permanent disability (PPD) benefits. Lastly, Bill A6602 focuses on the schedule of the Permanent Partial Disability benefits, which the previous stated Bill already aims to limit. The benefits would be given for a determined amount of time after the date of accident, and any other PPD benefits that exceeded the rate would be paid to the insurance carrier. Bills A5977 and A6218 were both introduced at the end of February but A6602 was introduced this month, on March 9th. Another aim of the Bills is to extend the opt-out period for employers from 30 days to 120 days.

In an overwhelming public response against these proposed bills, a petition on MoveOn.Org received more than 600 signatures overnight. On March 16th the bill had 339 with a goal of 400, which was ultimately far surpassed. On the 17th, the petition had 1,012 and a new goal set to 2,000. Although the website does not currently state when the petition started, the first signature was submitted on March 9th, the same day that most recent Bill was introduced. The links to the Bills as well as the petition are all linked below. MDASR, LLP. stands opposed to these proposed bills and urges all those concerned with the protection of workers’ rights to sign this petition.

Assembly Bill A5977

Assembly Bill A6218

Assembly Bill A6602

Workers’ Compensation Petition

75 new detectives to protect the Bronx

New York City and the NYPD has stated a victory in finding that the number of homicides has gone down, but in the case of what has become New York’s most violent borough-the Bronx-the NYPD has gone to new lengths to bring it up to par with Manhattan and the rest of the five boroughs.

According to the New York Times, the NYPD announced last week that they would be sending close to 80 new investigators to the Bronx. A study published by New York Times analyzed deployment data showing that officers in the Bronx dealt with the highest felony caseloads in the five boroughs. The New York Times study published just a few weeks prior to this announcement determined that “Precinct Detectives in the Bronx last year carried out more than twice as many violent felony cases on average as detectives in Manhattan or Staten Island, and over 50 percent more than those in Brooklyn or Queens.”, noted in the article linked below. The study also showed that budgetary resources are being invested elsewhere, such as counter-terrorism instead of the deployment of officers. This ultimately resulted in the Bronx not feeling the same relief of lower crime rates that were felt in Manhattan and the rest of New York City. The decision to deploy the 75 white-shield investigators, who are on track to become gold shield detectives, has been met with support from NYPD officials and the Bronx District Attorney as well as criticism from other New York City public officials. Letitia James, the City’s public advocate, expressed that this problem in the Bronx had been ignored for too long. The NYPD Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce, has told New York Times that the deployment should be underway by the end of the month.

Within the last year, there has been a growing trend of readjusting the staff of jails and prisons to keep the facilities safer for both Correction’s Officers and inmates, and a trend of public employee reform in general. This year began with legislative measures being announced to protect transportation workers and construction workers, and it looks like this trend has now transferred over to the Police Departments. This also comes in the wake of the new contract agreement between Mayor de Blasio and the PBA, the first in 5 years.

Police to Strengthen Force in New Yorks’ Most violent Borough

Nassau County COBA fighting poor jail searches

An internal investigation into a former Nassau County jail nurse has reportedly been mishandled and Nassau County COBA President is fighting for answers.  After a long series of letters, articles, press conferences, and investigations, former Nassau County Jail nurse Chantiel Cox was charged and arrested February 3rd, 2017 for smuggling contraband to inmates.

Nassau County COBA President Brian Sullivan received a series of letters from the Nassau County DA’s office painting a disturbing picture of an obstructed internal investigation of the former nurse. She and two other accomplices were allegedly smuggling razorblades, cellphones, synthetic drugs and other items to inmates. She initially was fired, without charges, from the jail following an internal investigation of the smuggling ring. Prosecutors weren’t formally made aware of the internal investigation. According to a video from Ucomm.com of a press conference that took place last month, the Nassau County DA found out through outside sources and then demanded a briefing from jail administration.  Following the briefing, the DA’s office conducted its own investigation and then later arrested and charged Cox.  An article on Ucomm.com paints a history of negligent facility searches and a general trend of searches being carried out poorly when violent situations arise. The same article states that for nearly a year after having knowledge that the nurse in question was bringing contraband into the correctional facility, there was no facility-wide search ordered for weapons, drugs, cell phones or other items.

A series of letters from the Nassau DA’s office sent to the Nassau County COBA President dating back to December of 2015, as referenced by Newsday, is what set the Union’s appeal for another investigation into motion. Prosecutors learned of the smuggling ring in December 2015 after the DA’s office was alerted by outside sources about the scheme. Chief Assistant DA, Albert Teichman, followed up by saying that not only was the investigation immediately conducted but that even though the sheriff’s initial investigation was mishandled, “the failures were non-criminal”. Ultimately, he later stated that he also asked County Attorney Carnell Foskey that all county agencies be reminded the police or prosecutors ” must be notified of any potential criminal investigation”, as quoted from the Newsday article about this case published in January. There was no question during this correspondence that the DA’s office or police should have been formally and properly consulted about the initial internal investigation.

The mishandled investigation into this matter only facilitates the unsafe landscapes of jails for inmates and correctional staff alike. If individuals who work inside these correctional facilities are overworked and understaffed, it creates a dangerous environment. Someone taking advantage of their access to secured and controlled spaces to further distribute materials, some that inmates can make in the jail without outside help, perpetuates the already vicious cycle of violence in jails. For more information about this case, please see the links below.

 

Correction officers union calls for probe of Nassau sheriff’s office

DA: Jail contraband probe involving nurse ‘mishandled’ internally

When the Sheriff Obstructs Justice

Nassau COBA holds Press Conference at the Nassau Legislature

 

 

 

Part two; Protecting our Correction Officers

Some time ago, I wrote a post titled From Illinois to New York, Solutions for Understaffed Jails. The articles referenced in the post outlined the grave environment that jails have transformed into for inmates and correction officers. An unsafe work environment for Corrections Officers ultimately leads to poor conditions for inmates. Inmates have quick and easy access to all kinds of contraband, putting the lives of CO’s in danger. The story on such work environments has developed.

As of last year, according to COBA statistics, just about half of the stabbings & slashings at Rikers Island Department of Correction involved 18 to 21 year olds-64 out of a total of 125 for the year. This is also the same age group that has seen an end to Solitary Confinement on Rikers Island. The COBA Union and the President of COBA have been imploring the Department and the City to see what is happening to their Corrections Officers, calling the end to solitary confinement “open season on CO’s”. “We have since filed an improper practice petition against the City and the Department of Correction for violating our collective bargaining agreement when the Department unilaterally eliminated punitive segregation for 18-21 year old inmates.”, a quote in a newsletter this month from the COBA President, Elias Husamudeen. Another statistic-since January of this year, which isn’t even over, 620 NYC Correction Officers have been assaulted by inmates under 21. Husamudeen has urged for the removal of violent inmates with a repetitive history of assaulting COs to mental health facilities or another jurisdiction, one where solitary confinement is in place. The COBA President has also noted that, on the upside, a number of these repeat offenders have been rearrested. This process of rearresting repeat assailants is accompanied by other highly preventative measures, all in the name of protecting New York’s Boldest. He states that Corrections Officers need policy makers to act as quickly with CO’s as they do with police officers when it comes to punishing assailants. Their safety and protection against assaults is hindered by mandated triple-shifts, due to programs that require a staff size that is unavailable at Rikers.

The road to reform for our Correction Officers is long and winding, but must be traveled. All who protect us deserve the same from the system at hand.