ALBANY, N.Y. — Thousands of garment workers chanted “shame on Pataki” as they protested outside the New York State Capitol demanding that the legislature change the workers’ compensation system, end mandatory overtime and expand health coverage.
The Campaign for Workers’ Health & Safety, sponsored by the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, called on Gov. George E. Pataki to resign because of what they called his “dismal health record.”
A spokeswoman for the campaign said: “Today, we brought busloads of injured workers who have been suffering under Pataki’s eight years as governor, waiting five, 10, sometimes 20 years for basic medical treatment and compensation benefits.”
The group claimed to have tried many other avenues to discuss the problems with government officials. But Jon Sullivan, public information officer for the Workers’ Compensation Board, said: “We’ve offered to meet with this group on numerous occasions to discuss their concerns and they have flatly refused. If a group repeatedly declines to even engage in discussion, it’s pretty clear that they have no interest in being reasonable and would rather engage in theatrics.
“The bottom line is that no administration has ever done more to provide help and assistance to those in need and it’s just truly unfortunate that this group would attempt to distort the record in such an irresponsible fashion.”
Sullivan said the board has established records for case resolutions and has resolved more than 600,000 claims in two years.
New legislation was introduced last year in the state Assembly that would have changed the Workers’ Compensation Law and the Labor Law to establish an interim benefits program and a minimum regarding the average weekly wage, as well as prohibit mandatory overtime. Catherine T. Nolan, a Democrat from Queens who is chairwoman of the Assembly Labor Committee, sponsored the bill, for which there has been no action.
“This bill would expedite the Workers’ Compensation claims filing process and create a review process to ensure that claimants are treated fairly and expeditiously,” Nolan said.