ALBANY, NY — In an aggressive move to hold companies responsible if a worker dies or is seriously injured on the job, New York will now fine contractors up to $500,000, Harvard’s At work blog, The Gothamist and New York Public Radio Report.
New York building unions supported the bill, sponsored by State Senator James Sanders, Jr., D-Ozone Park. Governor Kathy Hochul (D) signed it just before January 1st.
Dubbed Carlos’ Law in memory of Ecuadorian immigrant Carlos Moncayo, 22, who died when a 13-foot ditch collapsed on him, the law leaves enforcement to local prosecutors. In the past, they have been reluctant to go after contractors with political power in the Big Apple. And the previous maximum penalty for such death or serious injury was $10,000.
That can change. On Jan. 19, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Long Island City contractor Oneteam Restoration, owner Mario Rojas and the company’s accountant for “reporting an incorrect workforce size” and filing false documents “with the New York State Insurance Company.” have to save money on workers’ compensation premiums.” The scam in 2019-20 cost the city $7 million.
As might be expected, even in highly unionized New York City, all but five of the 22 construction workers killed in 2022 due to managerial negligence were non-union. Most, like Moncayo, were immigrants, as were 53% of New York’s construction workers. Non-union contractors easily exploit undocumented migrant workers into entry-level jobs through low wages and unsafe working conditions, State Senator Jessica Ramos, D-Jackson Heights, told public radio.
The New York law is notable for another reason. With Congress deadlocked on many issues, including workers’ rights, and the Republican-led House of Representatives anti-union and anti-labour, the arena of action for unions, workers and their allies is increasingly shifting to the states.
Blue states like New York, California and Illinois approve worker protection measures, while red states like Texas and Florida scrap rights.
While Hochul signed legislation cracking down on criminally negligent contractors, brutally anti-union Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., once again made his state’s teachers a prime target of his ire. He introduced a so-called “paycheck protection” law that bans public employers from levying levies and assessments that workers agree to in their contracts. Unions call such laws “paycheck cheating.” But DeSantis is going further by also cutting the salaries of teachers’ union leaders.
The DeSantis proposal, which is expected to pass the Republican-manipulated legislature with ease, “also orders school unions to inform members of membership costs.” It states that shop stewards and officers must represent their members on their own time and on their own initiative. And local teachers’ union officials cannot earn “more than the maximum rate” for the teachers they represent.