July 30, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Editor’s Note: The following is part of an ongoing LaborPress series examining the ways in which efforts to weaken New York’s Scaffold Law jeopardize workers
New York, NY – According to those seeking to scrap Labor Law 240, NY's Scaffold Law has made general liability costs in New York the highest in the land, while simultaneously driving down the number of carriers willing to write general liability policies. All told, they claim that Labor Law 240 is costing the private sector about $1.5 billion annually, and tacking on an extra $10,000 to the cost of building a home here.
But Supporters of New York's of NY's Scaffold Law insist that they aren't "stomping their feet and and saying there isn't a problem."
"I think that there is an insurance problem – I'll agree to that," says Steve McInnis, president, New York City District County of Carpenters [NYCDCC]. "We see there's an issue – but we're miles apart on the solution."
Instead of stripping worker protections and limiting liability, McInnis, like others in the Building Trades, maintain that the focus should be on achieving greater transparency in the insurance industry, making sure people are being properly insured, and promoting safety.
"I think we need to have a more comprehensive discussion about insurance and costs," McInnis says. "And how we engage these insurance companies, as well as how do we make sure that people working dangerous areas are properly insured."
This year, because of NY's Scaffold Law, opponents of Labor Law 240 say that the New York School Construction Authority has seen its insurance costs almost triple to $240 million.
But pending Legislation in the New York State Legislature would compel the insurance industry to open up their books to greater scrutiny in an effort to find the cause of rising costs.
"I don't think we've taken a position that there isn't a problem with the insurance industry," McInnis says. "But just stripping worker protections as some kind of panacea is ridiculous without a really full-throated discussion about how proper insurance is enforced. I think we need to make sure more people in the pool are properly insured."
The NYCDCC president argues that non-union shops who cannot match organized labor's emphasis on proper safety and training, are part of the problem.
"All too often on the non-union side, they put people in situations where they are not prepared and not properly trained," McInnis says. "They Don't invest the time and effort into lowering insurance liabilities and costs. That's the difference. We have the millions of dollars [that we invest in training], and they have nothing."