NIAGARA GAZETTE EDITORIAL: Waiting for Answers on the Asbestos Issue

June 13th, 2015

EDITORIAL: Waiting for answers on the asbestos issue

Posted: Friday, June 12, 2015 3:00 am

What happened at the Shaw Building?

The Niagara Gazette has asked Niagara County officials — County Manager Jeffrey Glatz and Public Information Officer Christian Peck included — for an explanation of the work that was performed by union employees and apparently several Social Services-mandated Work Relief program workers in late May.

The New York State Department of Labor has confirmed that an investigation is being conducted into the nature of the work at the county-owned building on Upper Mountain Road. The state is trying to determine if asbestos was present in the building.

Bill Rutland, president of the county’s blue collar union, has filed a grievance claiming some of his members were exposed to asbestos while performing work inside the structure last month.

Rutland says he’s received verbal confirmation from the labor department’s division of Public Employment Safety and Health, or PESH, that materials on site have tested positive as asbestos.

And yet, neither Glatz nor Peck have uttered a single word about the contents of the building, the nature of the work done on-site or the potential impact on county employees or individuals who were assigned duties there as part of Work Relief, a program where Social Services recipients are assigned responsibilities in order to maintain their benefits.

Falls resident Ryan Mack, one of what he said were about 20 other individuals assigned to work at the Shaw Building as part of the Work Relief program, told the Niagara Gazette that he performed work inside the structure without advance knowledge of any potential exposure to asbestos. He said the work crew spent four days at the end of May working inside the building.

“We’re cheap labor and this is total exploitation,” Mack said. “They sent us into a war zone unprepared, no gloves, no masks — nothing.”

Rutland’s grievance seeks identification of any instances in which members of his union — Local 182 — may have been exposed to asbestos during their work at the Shaw Building as well as a medical evaluation for each worker.



“In this day and age, everyone knows asbestos kills people,” Rutland told the Niagara Gazette. “I’m extremely upset that both my work crew members and many members of other unions have been exposed to this deadly agent.”

Rutland and Mack are right to be upset about the situation.

The lack of comment from county officials is puzzling.

Was the county aware that asbestos may be present in the building before union employees and Work Relief program workers were asked to clean out some of its contents?  

It’s a valid question, one that should be cleared up as soon as possible.

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Posted by JimSaccoII on June 13th, 2015 12:25am
This is a sad exploitation of cheap labor exposing the workers to a serious health hazard without the proper training or protection. Thanks to our REPUBLICAN MAJORITY CAUCUS, the people of Niagara County are going to be liable for any injuries sustained by the workers who were not properly trained and had no certification to perform the work they did. Chalk one up for the Republican Majoirty Caucus leader lining up the work for his Lawyer colleagues to bring these civil suits and make big $$$$ at the expense of the Niagara County Taxpayer!!!
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