With New Troubling Data, Website Lets Employees, Residents Be The Judge Of AvalonBay's Safety Record
– Nearly 200 serious OSHA violations at Giant REIT's sites in the last 10 years–
NEW YORK, Oct. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service workers union in the country, today launched an innovative social media site inviting the public to categorize developer AvalonBay Communities, Inc.'s workplace practices as "troubling" or "outstanding."
As detailed in the new site [www.troublingdevelopments.org], 32BJ has uncovered data revealing nearly 200 serious Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations at the giant REIT's sites over the last 10 years. (OSHA defines a violation as serious "if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a condition" about which an employer knew or should have known.)
"We are impressed by AvalonBay's praiseworthy "spirit of caring" campaign to encourage its associates to give back to local communities this October," said Kyle Bragg, Secretary Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU. "But many in our communities are left wondering why a highly profitable company, that aspires to be a model in the field of social responsibility, may be neglecting its moral duties and lacking concern for vulnerable employees at its worksites. Our new site makes it clear that AvalonBay needs to take more responsibility for the conditions at its properties."
The site's launch comes on the heels of AvalonBay's release of a report entitled Outstanding Developments, which was issued in the wake of growing attention to documented safety lapses by AvalonBay and its contractors, as well as wage and hour and workers' compensation violations by contractors on AvalonBay worksites; and a lack of access to affordable health insurance offered to AvalonBay's direct employees. The new research has also revealed other safety, environmental and wage-and-hour violations at AvalonBay worksites.
Users of the new interactive site are presented with these facts, along with information about AvalonBay's recurrent partnership with a series of irresponsible construction contractors with their own dubious employment records both on and off AvalonBay construction projects. 32BJ then invites users to decide whether each episode in this history should be rightly categorized as "outstanding" or as "troubling."
As 32BJ found in April, AvalonBay has left a trail of violations to workers' safety and wage-and-hour laws as the company races to cut time and costs on building projects around the country.
But new findings show that the problem is more extensive than previously believed. For example, AvalonBay and its recurrent contractors and subcontractors have been cited for at least 109 safety violations related to protecting workers from falls. 57 of these violations have been found since a carpenter, Oscar Pintado, fell to his death at an AvalonBay construction project in Woburn, MA in March 2007.
Additionally, since releasing its report in April, 32BJ has been questioning why AvalonBay continues to use a series of construction contractors with records contradicting former CEO Bryce Blair's 2008 assertion that AvalonBay had a "policy to terminate any subcontractor who we find engaged in any illegal practices." Information on the new site seems to demonstrate even further that this policy is not always enforced. Examples include Shawnlee Construction LLC's series of fall protection violations on AvalonBay construction projects, two of which, in 2008 and 2012, led to accidents and injured workers.
Other examples in the poll show that the problem may be the selective enforcement of this policy. For example, the new site recounts AvalonBay Senior Vice President J. Richard Morris's response when asked about the policy at the company's annual shareholder meeting in May. Morris contended, "We do [terminate subcontractors] for illegal practices, but not for OSHA violations. I'm not sure those are necessarily 'illegal.'" The site asks users to characterize this statement in light of the fact that OSHA violations are, by definition, failures to comply with federally mandated laws for protecting workers from illness and injury.
The website also questions the contractors AvalonBay has hired at its newest West Chelsea megaproject, currently under construction on Manhattan's West Side. At least three contractors, American Environmental Assessment, Stokes Demolition and Billy Contractors Inc., have been accused of or cited for dubious employment practices. For example, Billy Contractors is banned from work with New York City's School Construction Authority and Stokes Demolition is part of a conglomerate of demolition and sanitation companies with a history of safety, wage, and tax violations.
For more information: http://www.troublingdevelopments.org/
With more than 120,000 members in eight states, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.
SOURCE SEIU Local 32BJ