Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) this week renewed her pledge to protect the Scaffolding Law, a measure that holds contractors and developers accountable for falls that occur at work sites.
Originally enacted in the late 19th century, before workers’ compensation statutes were passed, the law allows an injured worker to sue and imposes absolute liability on the property owner and construction employer.
Proponents of the law say it gives construction workers legal protection against any kind of construction accident.
Opponents of the law say it drives up construction costs, and that even if a worker were drunk and injured himself in a fall, the law dictates that the builder and property owner are responsible, with no opportunity to argue for a defense of comparative negligence, which limits the amount owners must pay in such cases because the worker contributed at least in part to the injury.
According to the New York City Buildings Department, eight people have died in the last seven months on construction sites, which is double the amount in the same time frame last year. The report has motivated Espinal to reinforce a law that protects construction workers, and she is advocating developer accountability.
“We must do everything we can to ensure the safety of our workers and to hold negligent developers and contractors responsible for dangerous worksites. The Scaffolding Law sets an important precedent for worksite safety and prevents developers from cutting corners. I am proud to be an advocate for our workers in Albany and I will continue to fight for their rights and protections during my next term,” Espinal said in a press release.
In the past, Espinal has sponsored and passed Carlos’ Law, “an act to amend the penal law, in relation to crimes involving the death or injury of a worker,” according to New York State Assembly’s website. The bill’s namesake is Carlos Moncayo, an undocumented immigrant who died due to unsafe work conditions at a worksite.
In addition to sponsoring Carlos’ Law, Espinal helped pass legislation requiring car wash workers be paid minimum wage. Espinal is collaborating with the One Fair Wage campaign to host roundtables.
Espinal’s release comes as she is locked in a fierce primary battle with Catalina Cruz and Yonel Letellier Sosa. As such she drew praise for her advocating for the Latino worker community from Mason Tenders’ District Council PAC (MTDCPAC) Director Mike McGuire.
“While Assemblywoman Ari Espinal has helped organize panel discussions about expanding these protections, her opponent sat on those very panels advocating to water down the only protections these workers have. Her opponent has called for the repeal of the Scaffolding Law,” said McGuire.
“This is particularly egregious in light of the fact that the majority of fatalities in the construction industry in NYC come from falls and most of the victims are Latino immigrants. Assemblywoman Espinal has made her loyalties very clear – they are to her community and working families that call it home,” McGuire added.
The Democratic primary is Sept. 13.