The statistics speak clearly: Latinos and immigrants make up just 41% of all construction workers in New York City, but they account for 74% of the fatalities from construction accidents, according to a recent study by the Center for Popular Democracy. The study, entitled “Fatal Inequality,” traced construction accidents throughout New York City for the years 2003 through 2011 and also found the following:
- 88 percent of fatal falls in Queens and 87 percent in Brooklyn involved Latinos and/or immigrants.
- 86 percent of Latino and/or immigrant workers who were killed as a result of fall-related incidents in New York were working for a non-union employer.
- In 2011 focus groups, Latino construction workers reported fearing retaliation as a key deterrent to raising safety concerns at the workplace.
Why does this occur? In part, safety violations are most common at job sites run by smaller, non-union contractors, who are more likely to hire immigrant day laborers. These contractors cut corners to save money without regard for safety. Many are not providing the training and the safety equipment that are required by law, stated the report.
A new amendment threatens to make matters worse. As we have written about previously, construction and insurance industries are proposing an amendment to weaken the state’s Scaffold Law (read our blog Enough is Enough! Why We Need the Scaffolding Law to Remain). This law requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment, such as safe hoists, ladders and scaffolds, and holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. The new amendment would shift to the workers, which would, in our opinion, decrease safety precautions and important training and equipment provided by owners and contractors and cause a rise in worker injuries and deaths.
Immigrant workers — especially day laborers — may be reluctant to report safety hazards because they are afraid of being told to leave for the day or losing their job altogether, advocates say.
Our firm has a long history of representing and helping to fight for the rights of all workers, especially Latinos and undocumented workers, who are often taken advantage of and mistreated. If you or someone you know was injured in any way on a construction job, it is important to know you have rights as an undocumented worker, including:
- The right to be safe on the job
- The right to workers’ compensation
- The right to file a lawsuit
- The right to legal representation
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