May 5, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Worker safety advocates are calling on City Hall to make the lives of working men and women its top priority this week.
On Tuesday, LECET Executive Director Pat Purcell called out members of the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio for preoccupying themselves with lesser issues that divide the city, while neglecting too many dangerous working conditions that are leaving workers dead or injured on the job.
The comments came on the heels of last week’s Workers Memorial Day Observances in which the deaths of as many as 17 construction workers in 2015 were honored, as well as a new report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health report detailing the many hazards facing workers in the city’s commercial waste removal industry.
“We watch our city council and administration take action on issues that are nowhere near as important as this issue,” Purcell said from the steps of City Hall. “They have to take action on this, and they can do it whether it’s regulatory or legislatively — or simply coming from the executive office. These are issues that can be solved. If we are not putting the lives of workers in this city above everything else that needs to be done in this city — then the question really has to be, what are our legislators doing for us?”
Legislation now circulating inside the city council could require apprentice level training on many New York City construction projects. Similar legislation coming in the wake of a series of gruesome deaths involving New York City elevators, is also pending.
NYCOSH’s new report called, “Dirty And Dangerous” looks at several alarming case studies of worker deaths and injuries in the city’s commercial waste industry.
Dave Newman, author of the NYCOSH report, called the injuries and fatalities highlighted in the report “unnecessary,” “avoidable” and “preventable.”
“In each of these cases, the employer failed to comply with the legal required measures and industry standards to keep workers safe from harm,” Newman said on Tuesday. “How is it that we continue to permit these frequent lethal behaviors — and in some cases repeated behaviors — by multiple, small non-union employers in the commercial waste sector? How is it that the City of New York continues to license and renew the licenses of commercial waste operators who engage in wage theft, who routinely endanger and sometimes kill their employees, and endanger public health?”
Teamsters Local 813 President Sean Campbell Sean Campbell said it is time for City Hall to “remake” the industry so that workers don’t have to risk “life and limb to keep the streets clean.”
“Private sanitation workers are putting their lives on the line every day,” Campbell said. “But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This report shows that some companies are repeatedly skirting their responsibilities and endangering workers. Their behavior undermines the good companies and forces a race to the bottom.”
Mike Hellstrom, secretary-treasurer, Laborers Local Union 108, also called on City Hall to prioritize worker safety across all industries.
“Not one more should perish in any industry,” Hellstrom said. “We are not commodities to the employers that we serve. We are human beings and our lives should be respected as such.”
Newman insisted that the City of New York has “broad power” to improve the safety conditions of workers.
The Mayor’s Office has not responded to requests for comment.