Supporters and opponents of the state Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, came to Albany last week to engage in lobbying combat. The law specifically impacts the lives of minority contractors and workers.
Scaffold Law places heavy liability on contractors and property owners for a broad class of injuries caused by falls from heights while on the job. Opponents argue that such liability puts businesses in legal danger even in cases where workers are at fault, and drives up insurance costs that are passed to taxpayers and consumers.
Approximately 200 opponents of the law joined the Rev. Jacques Andrew DeGraff of 100 Black Men Inc., who has been enlisted to make the case that Scaffold Law is especially harmful to minority- and women-owned construction firms. Many of the companies have been hired for projects by the NYC School Construction Authority, which has seen a sharp drop-off in the number of insurers willing to offer liability coverage. The result is higher rates charged by remaining insurers.
More money put into insurance means less for new construction – as much as $1 billion less statewide.
Supporters of the law held a news conference where Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya pitched the “Construction Insurance Transparency Act of 2014,” which would require insurance companies that issue policies covering Scaffold Law claims to file annual financial statements and detailed claim data with the state’s Department of Financial Services.
Supporters argued that the opponents had no actual data to back up their claim that the law leads to significant higher liability insurance premiums in the state.
The Democratic lawmaker was backed by workers and union leaders who offered their own minority case: Black and Hispanic workers – including a large number of immigrants – make up a larger than proportional chunk of workers in construction and related fields, and would be placed at greater risk if protections were lessened.
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