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CPD In the News

New Report: Anti-Scaffold Law Research is Junk


April 17, 2014

Contact: TJ Helmstetter, Center for Popular Democracy

(973) 464-9224; tjhelm@populardemocracy.org



CPD, NYCOSH: Scaffold Law Saves Lives, Protects Workers; Industry-Funded Rockefeller Institute "Report" is Junk

(NEW YORK) -- Today, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released a paper entitled "Fatally Flawed: Why the Rockefeller Institute's Scaffold Law Report Doesn't Add Up." The report is in response to an earlier "report" funded by a construction industry-front group, that sought to gut worker protections known as the Scaffold Safety Law. 

"The Cost of Labor Law 240 on New York’s Economy and Public Infrastructure" was released last month by the Rockefeller Institute at SUNY-Albany, commissioned by an $82,800 check from the "New York Civil Justice Institute,"* a front-group whose address is the same as the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, which has worked for years to weaken laws that make it possible for people to assert rights against abusive or negligent landlords, employers, and other business interests. The LRA itself has frequently been criticized as being a front group for the construction industry and other corporate interests. 

*SOURCE: SUNY-Albany Division of Research, “Accent on Research,” Spring 2013 Newsletter, http://www.albany.edu/research/assets/springaccent2013.pdf (page 20)

"Industry front groups are putting construction profits first when they mislead the public to obscure the real stakes of this debate: workers' lives and safety on the job," said Josie Duffy, policy advocate at the Center for Popular Democracy. "The Scaffold Safety Law saves lives. Gutting it, as some are advocating, will harm workers and disproportionately put Latino and immigrant workers at risk. These groups should be ashamed of themselves for spending $82,000 on a junk report instead of making sure the workers who build our cities have the protection they need."

The Scaffold Safety Law is a critical safety protection for construction workers, who are increasingly Latino and immigrant. In fact, an earlier review of construction site accidents by the Center for Popular Democracy, published in an October 2013 report entitled "Fatal Inequality" starkly illustrated how important the Scaffold Law is because of the ongoing rates of injury in construction in New York, and notably, how the risks are disproportionately borne by immigrant workers and workers of color: 

  • In 60% of those fatalities, the worker was Latino and/or immigrant, disproportionately high for their participation in construction work.
  • In New York City, 74% of fatal falls involved Latino and/or immigrant workers.

Today's report "Fatally Flawed" makes the following points, in detail: 

  • The Rockefeller Institute’s report is fundamentally biased.
  • The Rockefeller Institute's report confuses correlation with causation.
  • The Rockefeller Institute's report ignores key facts about New York State & the construction industry.
  • The Rockefeller Institute's report compares apples & oranges to make a false point.
  • The Rockefeller Institute's report uses faulty math to claim rising rates & lost jobs.

The conclusion is simple: New York’s strong worker health and safety laws, such as the Scaffold Law, protect workers from unnecessary risk. And it is the inherently dangerous nature of construction at an elevation—not the laws designed to protect workers —that account for injuries on the job. Any attempt to water down key worker protections will simply expose more workers, and their families, to unnecessary risk of injury. New York cannot afford to turn back the clock on protecting our workers or our public safety.

Read the full report, "Fatally Flawed: Why the Rockefeller Institute's Scaffold Law Report Doesn't Add Up" for evidence and details.

NYCOSH & CPD also released a new one-pager explaining how the Scaffold Safety Law works, read it here.

The Center for Popular Democracy and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health are proud partners in the newly launched Scaffold Safety Coalition. The Scaffold Safety Coalition is a diverse group of workers, advocates and organizations committed to protecting construction workers in New York State, creating a unified front in the fight to defend New York’s Scaffold Safety Law from industry-backed efforts to gut the law. On behalf of more than 1.5 million New Yorkers, the coalition has pledged to push for increased enforcement of New York’s construction safety standards. More information and a full list of partners in the Scaffold Safety Coalition is available at the coalition website: www.scaffoldsafetylaw.com

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY: The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.

ABOUT THE NEW YORK COMMITTEE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH: The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, and workers’ rights activists. NYCOSH uses training, education, advocacy, and organizing to improve health and safety conditions in our workplaces, our communities, and our environment. Founded 35 years ago on the principle that workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths are preventable, NYCOSH works to extend and defend every person’s right to a safe and healthful workplace and community. Visit NYCOSH's website at: www.nycosh.org.