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Asbestos Abatement Toxic in Mid-Atlantic Region
WASHINGTON D.C. – The Laborers’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition (MAROC), their partners, and elected officials from Virginia, Maryland and DC presented a shocking report today, November 16, 2011 at the National Press Club, exposing the unsafe and illegal practices of the area’s asbestos abatement industry, some at federal project sites.
The report, “Toxic Exposure: An Undercover Report on Lawless Practices and Worker Abuse in the Asbestos Abatement Industry,” was the culmination of a yearlong undercover investigation into the practices of the asbestos abatement industry in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area. It was conducted by college student Ernest Ojito. Ojito spent a year as an employee for various asbestos abatement companies, and found an industry that routinely violates federal safety and health standards, putting workers and local federal workplaces at serious risk of illness and death.
Among the findings are repeated examples of abatement work conducted without the proper licensing of employees, illegal disposal of materials, inadequate worker protection against exposure, and other grossly negligent safety violations.
“In May of this year, I was sent to the U.S. Capitol Power Plant to do lead abatement, for which I was not licensed, and while there, the supervisor instructed me to dispose of lead paint down the water drain,” said Ernest Ojito, who was exposed while on the job. He continued, “The local Latino community is tired of the asbestos and lead abatement industry ignoring local worker safety in order to line its pockets.”
Laborers’ MAROC representative Steve Lanning emphasized how broadly the violations occurred, and urged strong action to protect workers from potentially life-threatening exposure. “The reprehensible conduct by these contractors calls out for swift and immediate action to rein in an industry that operates outside the law,” said Lanning.
Joining Laborers’ MAROC Director Steve Lanning and Mr. Ojito to discuss these findings were representatives from all three local jurisdictions, including:
From Virginia: Senators Adam Ebbin (D), and Barbara Favola (D)
From Maryland: Senators Jamie Raskin (D), Victor Ramirez (D), and Delegate Tom Hucker (D)
From DC: Council Members Tommy Wells (D), and Phil Mendelson (D)
The regional representatives at the event vowed to further investigate these abuses and sponsor legislation to tighten enforcement if necessary.
Also present were Laborers’ MAROC partners: the Sierra Club DC and VA chapters, Tenants and Workers United (TWU), and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and additional asbestos abatement workers.