Grants Available to Not-for-Profits to Provide Training and Education to Increase Workplace Safety
Funding Will Help Protect Immigrant Workers and Employees in Low-Wage Industries
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today launched a $5 million education and training grant program to improve occupational health and safety conditions in low-wage industries. The announcement coincides with the 2016 Central Labor Council Labor Day Parade, which the Governor marched in earlier this morning. The grants will help not-for-profits provide training programs targeting workplace hazards in industries with high rates of injury that often employ immigrant workers. The program builds on the Governor's initiatives that place New York at the forefront of workplace health and safety standards, including the implementation of new nail salon ventilation regulations and the launch of a study to ban a toxic chemical widely used in the dry cleaning industry.
“From recovering millions of dollars in back wages, to cracking down on dangerous conditions in the nail salon industry, this administration has continued New York's proud tradition of standing up for our hardworking men and women," Governor Cuomo said. "These grants will help protect some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers against occupational health and safety hazards and is another step toward a better, safer and more just New York for all."
Studies estimate that workplace injuries statewide cost $10 billion a year. The Workers' Compensation System covers a significant portion of the costs, but only as to lost wages and medical care once an injury occurs. Studies have also identified that as many as three in four workers do not take steps to address workplace hazards out of fear of retaliation by their employer, or simply because they do not know how to take action.
Low-wage workers are especially vulnerable and often face challenges in the workplace, including isolated work environments, language barriers and lack of immigration status, which keep them from seeking assistance. Currently, there are few educational resources available across the state to assist this population and their specific needs. The grant program is designed to address the most serious occupational health and safety hazards, and help prevent injuries, which vary across industries.
Targeted industries include:
- Dry cleaning
The funding made available today will be awarded to community-based organizations, direct service providers, occupational health and safety clinics, and other not-for-profit entities. These grants will provide training, education, and assistance for workers, advocates, and businesses to help implement:
- Prevention measures against workplace accidents, injuries, illnesses, harassment, and other physical and psychological workplace health and safety concerns;
- Occupational safety and health best practices intended to protect and enhance workplace safety;
- Workers’ rights to seek medical attention and monetary compensation for injuries suffered at the workplace (i.e. through Workers’ Compensation Board claims); and
- Business compliance with occupational safety and health regulations and best practices in partnership with the New York State Department of Labor's On Site Consultation program.
Organizations interested in applying can find more information at http://on.ny.gov/RFA.
Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “Governor Cuomo has been a leader in standing up for exploited workers, returning millions of dollars of wages stolen from many of the hard-working immigrants who form the backbone of New York’s economy. The New York Immigration Coalition applauds this groundbreaking new initiative and we look forward to working with partners and NYIC members to improve workplace safety and health conditions, and ensure that all of New York's workers - immigrant and native-born alike - are treated fairly."
Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, said, "We applaud the Governor’s efforts to stand side by side with workers facing hazardous workplace conditions, these funds will ensure that organizations dedicated to improving the health and safety of workers will have more resources to increase awareness and ensure more workers come out of the shadows and get the services they need and deserve."
Esta Bigler, Labor and Employment Law Programs Director at the ILR School, Cornell University, said: "I applaud Governor Cuomo for his ongoing efforts to bring exploited workers out of the shadows and into the economic mainstream. This initiative is yet another important step in ensuring that workers on the margins of our economy are treated fairly."
Combating Worker Exploitation
In July 2016, Governor Cuomo announced that the Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation, now part of the Joint Task Force, had directed 1,547 businesses to pay nearly $4 million in back wages and damages to more than 7,500 workers since its inception in July 2015. The Governor also announced several initiatives to improve worker health and safety, including a multi-agency investigation into the exploitation of dry cleaning workers and a coordinated effort to ban harmful chemicals that are commonly used in the industry. Read more about the Governor’s initiatives here: http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-employers-repay-nearly-4-million-back-wages-and-damages-more-7500
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