Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York's underground sweatshop construction industry

First day on the job, untrained worker sent to his death and no one gives a fuck!

Has taken me a few days to try to convey my point of view into this article, unfortunately it's not a book, I'm not getting a dime from it and I need a slight break myself so you now have my second not-finished piece in front of you. Anyone want me to write for money and give me a large advance, I'm all for it. Enjoy...


Family members are mourning the loss of a man who died Wednesday during his first day on the job at a construction site in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Police say 43-year-old construction worker Jose Palacios plummeted 13 floors to his death when a scaffolding collapsed on Clinton Avenue. Officials with the Department of Buildings say fast winds caused the scaffolding to give way.

(Fellow worker Ricardo) Uribe said it was Palacios' first day on the job.

Palacios leaves behind a wife and 17-year-old daughter in Mexico City. He left them behind once before when he came to the States seeking more opportunities. "He comes here for work, to give his family a better life. Just for that," nephew Octavio Solis. Now his family in the States, the niece and nephew he lived with in Astoria, Queens, have the grueling task of telling his family in Mexico."All his family is in Mexico. How are we [going to] talk to them?" said Solis. Palacios' mother's health is fragile, Solis says. "She's 74 years. She's old. She's sick with diabetes. She could die, too," said Solis.

The DOB had sent out an advisory Wednesday morning about the high winds, urging all builders, contractors, developers and property owners to secure their construction sites and buildings.
Another illegal alien Hispanic construction worker has died right here in Brooklyn, this time it was his very first day on the job. While my heart goes out to the families affected by this tragedy. I cannot help but wonder if this is possibly another sweatshop construction accident?

The workers allegedly were building or working off a 3 tier or suspended scaffold on the rooftop of a 13 story building to do stucco work, by OSHA regulations if the scaffold was being erected they should have been wearing an independent safety harness, the DOB warning about winds should have stopped that detail from taking place and the relative interviewed, who also worked on the site, did not speak a word of English. The New York Times has pointed out that the deceased was here illegally. Could this be yet another death caused by the underground construction industry in New York? Those companies that employ and abuse undocumented workers every day of the week. How bad is it to be a undocumented worker here in New York? It's real bad, it's a modern slavery and it's in every industry. From blatant racism to horrendously unsafe working conditions and without the proper equipment.

Let us focus once again on my term sweatshop construction, or what one could call the underground work force and the modern day slave like conditions in which undocumented immigrant workers must endure to maintain a job for unscrupulous contractors and the effect it has on it's competition, the state and the public.

Where to begin, well we can start with where I first learned about the inequality. It was a few years back when the New York Times reported about construction deaths in NYC, explaining that in the year ending Sept, 2006:
Of the 28 incidents in which the 29 workers were killed, 19 involved companies with 10 or fewer workers and 21 involved workers who were immigrants or had limited English proficiency and 24 involved nonunionized workers.
If you do the math, according to the NYT, a nonunion construction worker is 500% more likely to die at work in NY, thats a disgusting fact. We are over a year past that report and it doesn't seem like it's getting much better. 2 deaths that I'm aware of in the first month of 2008.

Aside from death and injuries, lets get into labor violations. Lets start with misclassification, this term is used for contractors who term their employees "independent sub-contractors", according to a very good explanation by Mark Reihl, executive director of the Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters:
“This is a growing cancer on the industry, one that will lead us in a race to the bottom in wages and benefits – if it isn’t stopped,” and adds “Rather than withhold payroll taxes and pay Workers Comp and unemployment insurance, an employer can just hand workers a 1099 form and say ‘Here, you’re an independent contractor’,”
A very large portion of these misclassified workers are illegal aliens, this is parg of a story in which the Brooklyn based grassroots organization, Make The Road By Walking, has tried to help these workers and level the playing field:
During 2005, we collected over $600,000 in unpaid wages and overtime, in cases like that of “Luis M.”

Luis worked as a non-union laborer doing heavy digging and cement work for a major utility company’s subcontractor. He had to report at 6am every morning to load the crew’s truck; but his first hour of work each day was unpaid. Luis also worked at least 60 hours a week but never received time-and-a-half overtime pay as required by law. Make the Road by Walking filed a lawsuit on Luis’s behalf in federal court. After several months’ litigation, Luis received $35,000 and reinstatement with the company, but this time with union protection and union pay – a raise of more than $7 per hour, to $24 an hour.
And speaking about the pay scale and working conditions for above mentioned workers, heres an excerpt of a story I wrote called: Why All The Anti-Union Sentiment?
Currently we have a large percentage of contractors (aprox. 1/4 of all current construction in NY has employees that work off the books or are misclassified as independent contractors) here who pay their undocumented employees below the minimum wage and misclassifying them as independent contractors. Entitling them to let the "employee' bear the burden of making sure his taxes are being payed, workers comp insurance is in place, supply their own safety equipment and working conditions.

Currently our Building and Construction Unions, local politicians from a bipartisan background and a host of other agencies, like the Brennan center for Justice and the Fiscal Policy Institute have been bringing to light the reckless behavior of these unscrupulous contractors, their safety violations, their shotty and dangerous work, their unskilled workers, the slave wages (according to the Brennan report some are forced to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for $6-$12 an hour), the public safety concern, the nonpayment by employer of taxes for said employees(in fact 2 construction companies are facing jail time(NY Newsday reported one for $220,000 and another $394,788 in evading employee taxes), The Governor himself has declared an Executive order to end this misclassification of workers, this doesn't even mention the tax burden these contractors push off onto the general public and those contractors who(according to Fiscal Policy Institute) cost workers lost wages and benefits and local, state and federal governments nearly $500 million in 2005.
When one of these 50,000+ workers gets sick and winds up in the hospital who do you think winds up paying for that? We do.Who winds up paying for their kids schooling, the upkeep of our infrastructure, our public employees wages? the list goes on. What is the cost to us for the lowest bid?
Heres some more evidence of the modern Racism in sweatshop construction from PLP.org in a story from Nov.06 entitled: Racism Killing Immigrant Construction Workers
"His dream was to save money and go back home," said construction worker Julio Jara. But that dream was shattered forever when his brother, 25-year-old Clever Jara, fell 17 stories to his death near Union Square in Manhattan. The Ecuadorian immigrant was putting up netting to prevent bricks from falling during repair work on the building's facade. Witnesses said wind gusts may have caused him to slip from the building's ledge.

A good many of the construction workers repairing building facades here are Latino and other immigrants, forced to work under hazardous conditions in order to support their families, both here and in their home countries. Amid a building boom, scofflaw developers are allowed to "self-certify" themselves, so they simply ignore safety and pursue profits. When 27-year-old Arturo Gonzalez was struck and killed last year by an 800-pound steel girder, the Buildings Department "fined" the realtor and owner the grand sum of $1,400!
$1,400, that was the fine, could you imagine? For a human life, how far down the tubes has this country gone? They continue:

The racism of building contractors like Town Restoration -- the company fixing the above facade -- was evident in their ignoring safety precautions for these predominantly Latino immigrant workers. The company didn't have the proper permit for the project, maintained no on-site supervision and apparently had not provided Clever with the proper training for the job, given the absence of such certification. Workers trained for the rigs were not on the site.

According to the latest OSHA "report card" on construction-site deaths, 86% occur on non-union jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs involve immigrant laborers and therefore many cases are unreported. "When a union guy is injured, reports are filed," according to immigrant lawyer David Perecman, but when it involves undocumented workers, "the boss tells them if it still hurts in the morning go to the hospital and tell them you tripped and fell."

Alongside this is the racism of the construction unions which historically have refused to admit or organize black and Latino workers, so now the chickens come home to roost -- thousands of construction workers are unorganized and prey to the bosses lowering wages and conditions for all workers.

While anti-immigrant hysteria is whipped up against workers like Clever Jara, they end up sacrificing their lives for profiteering bosses who figure they can get away with it because such workers are "expendable" -- more evidence that a system that produces such needless deaths must be destroyed.

And from an FROM: NY Carpenters' Union Embraces Immigrant Organizing
Thirty Irish and South American workers filed unpaid wage claims with the state because they weren't receiving overtime pay, even when they sometimes worked 70 hours a week.

According to Puerta, the New York attorney general took the case on civil-rights grounds because Irish immigrants were being paid $10 more an hour than South American immigrants doing the same work.

"It was the Irish immigrants who said, 'look, it's not fair, we perform the same work and we get paid more than these guys do,'" Puerta said.
I don't get it one bit, if you were to call someone a chink, cracker, towel-head, wetback, ginny, mick, spook, square, polock, fag, were to hang a noose or draw a swastika, you would likely go to jail for a hate crime. Of course I'm not endorsing that type of behavior, but...

Think about how backwards that logic is when compared to these unscrupulous employers that are continuously hiring and discriminating against mostly Hispanic undocumented immigrants, and for the most part are the direct cause of their death when an accident occurs ,they get fined $1,400 from the Buildings Department and it seems the only other agencies that actually go after them legally are Taxation and Finance, who usually makes a deal, for less than what was owed, and might seek jail time.

Did you follow that?

Word Knot or Picture= Jail Time

Racism Murder or Grand Larceny= A slap on the wrist

What happened to "sticks and stones"
It should be:

"Words, Knots and Pictures will get Jail Time but Murder, Racism and Larceny Will Never Hurt The Employer"

Where was Al Sharpton screaming like a madman? Where was Hillary getting bills passed against this at the Senate level? Where is Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz making a statement, or giving a flying fuck for that matter? From a close source, he dosen't give one shit who works on the jobs as long as the developing in Brooklyn continues. Where is OSHA reform to deter the next death? According to the AFL-CIO there are only 129 inspectors in the entire state, and it would take 96 years to visit every workplace just once. Why aren't these construction sites considered crime scenes? Why do we still allow illegal aliens to flood this country, instead of creating some sort of legal paths to citizenship when a person comes here to work, learns the nations language and has equal rights at work? Where is the jail time for the employers of these undocumented workers?

I would think that it is those that use alien workers, squeezing their lives out of them like the juice from a lemon, are the ones with all the money and lobbying power. They tend to like us having all sorts of different opinions about Illegal Aliens. And the neglect of enforcing English as the standard language suits them even better. If we cannot communicate, we cannot unite. For communication of knowledge is the ultimate power, and those that prey on this new slave class want a country divided. All the things that our fore-fathers fought for are getting raped in succession. The 40 hour week, most people cannot make it by working 40 hours, just take a view at HBO's The Wire when Baltimore cut back Police force funding and all the overtime stopped one of the cops states "I have my mortgage". With that goes the weekend too, as a matter of fact there are tons of union contracts here in the us where the companies want "Mandatory Overtime" embedded into their contracts. Safety laws are neglected and unenforced. Child Labor Laws, undocumented and underground kinda makes that unenforceable, even such Bib-Box enterprises such as CVS don't bother to abide by such trivial things as Child Labor Laws. Sweatshop conditions, just read above, or do one better grab a copy of Unregulated Work in The Global City, and see how widespread the abuses go. Overtime, pensions, social security, health care are all being attacked. And while we are being separatists, and yes we do it to ourselves, the products we buy are getting smaller, there is an invisible inflation movement going on in this country. From the 11 ounce pound of coffee, to the 1.75 quart of ice cream. We are all doing more for less and have become a complacent 'silent majority" of people who must go through the doldrums of life eking it bye and not having the time to focus on what we need to do to change the world for ourselves and our neighbors. When we don't like it, all we have to do is look in the mirror and realize that we can change the world, it just takes a tiny bit of effort.

As I once stated:
"Such a small percentage try to make the world a better place , leaving the work to a scarce few . If those that did next to nothing did just a tiny bit the world could be a better place for all ."

We all suffer because of this and it will only get worse if it continues.

Images which I created in this post and 3 more are available for download in 9 panel cut and glue poster format at UnionReview: Labor Movement Posters for Download

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