Scaffold Law reform good for employers, employees

Union Concrete, like so many Western New York contractors, has a proud history of employing local union workers. Safety is our highest priority and foremost concern. So I was dismayed to read the recent letter, “Scaffold Law provides protection for workers,” vilifying supporters of Scaffold Law reform. The fact is, reform would not weaken a single one of New York’s many existing safety protections. Nor would it restrict a worker’s ability to recover damages if he were injured due to another’s negligence.

As the industry goes, so too do labor unions. That’s why they should be among the loudest voices for reform. The Scaffold Law is driving dramatic and devastating increases in insurance costs, chilling construction work and putting New York jobs at risk. Union workers should be concerned. As a recent article in Crain’s NY Business highlighted, some New York City firms are now moving to non-union contractors to offset costs imposed by the Scaffold Law. One example of the additional cost to do business can be found in our recently completed Thruway rehab job from milepost 438.5 to 451.5. Due to the need to protect the customer from the threat of a potential lawsuit, an additional umbrella insurance policy had to be provided. Our costs were elevated by $380,000, a price tag that was directly passed onto the taxpayers.

History provides us with a valuable example. After Illinois repealed its Scaffold Law, the lawyers pushed to reinstate it. But labor wouldn’t get on board, because as the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor noted, “when the construction industry does well our members do well, and this is going to erode that relationship.”

Employers and unions have a close bond that is forged from our common goals. We’re all in this together, so let’s fix this problem together.

Carley J. Hill

Union Concrete Construction

Safety Coordinator