Upstate Opportunity Region? This is a Democrat?!?!?!?

Like most New Yorkers, I think, I’ve been woefully unobservant when it comes to the New York State Legislature.  I am paying much, much more attention these days, and promise to pass the benefits to the blogosphere, . . . such as they are.

But in reading an article on Spitzer’s newly-forming Upstate strategy, I was blown away by the following comment from a (nominal, at least) Democratic Assemblyman from Tonawanda:

Jobs at stake in state divide || Democrat & Chronicle: Business

Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Tonawanda, called last week for the creation of an “upstate opportunity region.” The goal: to direct state aid to parts of the region that fall below a series of predetermined economic indicators, such as job growth.

He believes that the Legislature should look at ways of easing the burden of certain laws on upstate businesses, such as one that imposes liability on employers for work-site falls from ladders or other lifts, regardless of circumstance.

That law “is an affordable luxury in downstate but it is a project killer upstate,” said Schimminger, who leads the Assembly’s committee on economic development. He says he believes the Legislature has the authority to write laws to apply in one part of the state over another, as it has done in the past with legislation affecting only cities of 1 million or more.

“We should treat upstate, however it is defined, differently from downstate,” Schimminger said.

Where do I even begin?  Have we not had enough of being Corporate America’s dirty little run-down tax shelter, already?  COMIDA has not convinced us of the need to find better ways to reform the state economy?  And how is forcing employers to take heed of safety concerns “an affordable luxury” of downstate?

Grrr. . .  Having spent much of my early adulthood working in factories, that last one really burns me up.  It’s the kind of thing where public ignorance is corporate bliss.

The fact of the matter is, safety is rarely a thing that can be legislated, rarely a thing in which a definable set of rules can be universally applied to all factories and all industries.  For this reason, Worker’s Comp cases can get quite complex and nasty, devolving into a “he said/they said” kind of situation.  There’s no “right way,” to have done whatever caused the accident.  There’s no “wrong way,” upon which to rest one’s case against the worker, and even if there is, there is always employer pressure compelling workers to do things they know are unsafe because “it needs to get done.”

Don’t believe me?  You’ve not worked in a factory.  Period.  Don’t bother to argue with me.

In that situation, the person who comes out best is the one with the better set of lawyers, and guess who that tends to be?  The worker?  Not unless they’re Union.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an altruistic law, either: litigating Workers Comp claims is expensive for the state, and paying out on claims is even more expensive, so this is their way of making sure that employers feel some of that sting, too.

So, one way or another, these types of laws force employers to be more aware of safety concerns.  Or more sensitive, to speak accurately.  They’re the kind of thing that allows us as workers to say, “hell, no.  I’m not climbing that f*ing ladder, dumb ass.  You do it, if its that important.”  They keep us safe and give us leverage to try to improve our work environments as individuals, affecting change where no law can reach us.

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.