UFA Disability Fight-NYCOSH

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In New York City and Long Island we discuss the need for measures to protect workers, both on the job and after they’ve been injured. Steve Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association discusses why firefighters and police officers hired after 2009 can receive at most $27 a day in disability and how to fight it. Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), discusses initiatives they have taken in her first year, including preparation for disasters and contagious disease, preserving the Scaffold Safety Law and more.

UFA Fights for Fair Disability

In 2009, Governor Patterson vetoed an extender bill which extended tier 2 benefits to newly hired firefighters and policemen.  This bill had been repeatedly passed by previous administrations and had maintained disability benefits. The result of this has been that firefighters hired after 2009 who suffer career ending injuries cannot receive more than $27 a day. Governor Patterson has since said that he had not realized the veto would impact disability benefits. Now, a supermajority of Council Member are co-sponsoring a resolution by Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley that would support legislation in Albany to change the tier pension system. However, Mayor de Blasio opposes the resolution and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has been slow to allow a hearing. Another consideration is that most of the firefighter affected are people of color and women. The cut on benefits coincided with a push from City Council for the New York Fire Department to diversify. The UFA launched a media campaign last month to increase pressure on the City Council. UFA president Steve Cassidy discusses why this cut in benefits doesn’t just hurt firefighters and policemen and their families, but all New Yorkers.

NYCOSH’s New Initiatives

Charlene Obernauer has been executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) for just over a year and it has been a busy one.  NYCOSH is a membership organization comprised of workers, unions, community-based organizations and health and safety specialists that aim to improve health and safety conditions in workplaces through training, education and advocacy.  One battle NYCOSH has been focused on is protecting the Scaffold Safety Law. New York’s Scaffold Safety Law dates back to before the time of skyscrapers- 1885 to be exact- but recently it has been under threat from lobbyists representing the construction industry.  The law mandates that if an employer does not provide proper safety equipment and a workers injured, the employer is completely liable. Lobbyists have been fighting to gut the law, arguing that the cost of insurance is overwhelming companies and preventing necessary work from being done.  Charlene debates that argument in this week’s show and discusses NYCOSH’s other efforts to ensure the safety of New York’s workers.