New Report Exposes Troubling History of Unsafe Working Conditions at AvalonBay Sites, Says 32BJ SEIU

Apr 12, 2012, 10:35 ET from SEIU Local 32BJ

– Nearly 60 OSHA violations at Giant REIT's sites–

NEW YORK, April 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Luxury development giant AvalonBay Communities Inc. 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, a new white paper has found. The report, Troubling Developments, found that Avalon Bay and its recurrent contractors and subcontractors have been cited for at least 38 safety violations related to protecting workers from falls, including ones that caused the death of a 28-year-old carpenter.

"AvalonBay's development strategy has put workers' safety at risk," said Hector Figueroa, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU. "This highly profitable developer ought to take steps to protect the safety of the workers who make its developments possible."

The white paper, released by the union 32BJ SEIU, exposes a pattern of worker safety violations at AvalonBay Communities, Inc. construction sites.  In addition, the report documents violations of wage laws by AvalonBay contractors.  The report also calls attention to Avalon Bay's failure to provide affordable health insurance to its maintenance workers.

One victim was 28-year-old carpenter Oscar Pintado, who died after falling 48 feet down an elevator shaft while working on the roof of an AvalonBay construction site in Woburn, Mass. in March 2007. In response to the incident, OSHA fined Caballero Construction Company, the subcontractor of an AvalonBay contractor, for four serious violations of fall protection standards and another serious violation of training requirements.

Regulatory agencies have also found a variety of other worksite dangers on AvalonBay construction sites, including excessive debris, uncovered holes, lax fire precautions, improper lead abatement and insufficient safety training.

Furthermore, in New York City, where employer-funded, comprehensive family health coverage is the industry norm, AvalonBay's employees have to pay at least $201.96 every two weeks to provide their families with health insurance. 

"I have been with AvalonBay for eight years. When I started I had to choose 401k or benefits. I could not afford both," said Richard Spivey, maintenance technician at AvalonBay complex in Milford, CT., who is mentioned in the report.

The paper also details a series of wage-and-hour violations on AvalonBay sites in Massachusetts. In February 2009, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that her office had fined three construction companies for violations of the Massachusetts Independent Contractor/Misclassification Law and Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws while working at AvalonBay projects around the state. Two other construction companies agreed to settlements with the state Attorney General. The three companies cited were forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. One of the contractors penalized also employed fatal fall victim Oscar Pintado

According to the report, AvalonBay's executive compensation criteria could hinder efforts to address these problems. In February 2012, William McLaughlin, AvalonBay's Executive Vice President for Development and Construction, received a $434,616 cash bonus, in part for the achievement of corporate and individual goals for minimizing construction costs and outpacing development schedules in 2011.

With more than 120,000 members in eight states, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.