Friday, July 13, 2018
NEW YORK, NY
On Friday, July 13, 2018, the Manhattan DA announced that SSC High Rise Inc. plead guilty to charges of one count of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class C felony, in the case of construction worker Juan Chonillo. The New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters would like to thank Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL) Commissioner Roberta Reardon, and New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Mark G. Peters for taking action against SSC High Rise Construction.
The District Council of Carpenters commends the work of City and State agencies in cracking down on this case, but the penalty doesn’t match the offense. According to the sentence, SSC High Rise only needs to pay $10,000 in corporate fines and penalties, in addition to $842,000 in restitution to employees cheated out of their fair wages, in order to be cleared of all charges. The District Council of Carpenters believes this is not enough. Not only is the non-union SSC High Rise responsible for the manslaughter of Jan Chonillo, the company has admitted to stealing more than $500,000 in overtime wages over a six-year period from more than 50 employees and underreporting nearly $2 million in payroll. The District Council of Carpenters is urging that the New York State Attorney General separately to administer seek the imposition of a substantially higher penalty.
“The exploitation of workers at some sites around the city has become a way of doing business for some contractors. These practices have been demonstrated time after time, and the working-class families of this city have suffered the worst losses because of it,” said Joseph Geiger, Executive Secretary-Treasurer for the District Council of Carpenters. “We are urging that the penalty match the magnitude of these crimes.”
Juan Chonillo was working for SSC on September 21, 2017, when unsafe working conditions caused him to fall to his death from the 29th floor at 161 Maiden Lane in Manhattan. The tragedy struck the construction community hard as the industry and families across the city mourned yet again for another loss that could have been prevented if proper safety measures had been taken.
While SSC plead guilty, this penalty does not properly hold the company accountable for its criminalitycarelessness. If these practices continue, without fear of serious consequence, it will only be matter of time before another worker is injured or killed on the job because their company sought to cut safety corners.
The District Council asks: Is a life only worth $10,000?
Further actions must be taken and SSC and its owners must be held accountable. This is a company that not only has death on its hands, but countless other worker injuries and construction-related code violations as well. To initiate change, the punishment must fit the magnitude of the crime.
The District Council believes that every worker, regardless of union status, should be ensured safety at work. Safety should be a right, not a privilege.