By Carlotta Mohamed
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and the New Immigrant Community Empowerment are urging the state Senate to pass his law aimed at protecting the lives of construction workers at dangerous job sites.
To help prevent workplace deaths and injuries, Carlos’ Law will protect construction workers from employers who don’t comply with the required safety protocols. To ensure a safe working environment, the law will increase fines and penalties of up to $500,000 for developers who ignore workplace safety protocols and procedures, according to Peralta.
“We are facing an unacceptable crisis when we are talking about the number of on-the-job deaths and serious injuries. We must ensure we use all the necessary resources to help reduce occupational deaths and injuries,” Peralta said. “Edgar Pazmino, Carlos Moncayo, and Juan Chonillo were all killed at construction sites. It is time we honor their memory by working all together to avoid any future on-the-job deaths. We have an obligation to protect workers, and this is why it is imperative we debate Carlos’ Law on the Senate floor this year.”
Three yellow helmets on a wall high above a white board in the New Immigrant Community Empowerment located at 71-29 Roosevelt Ave. signified the loss of three lives — one dedicated to Queens resident Carlos Moncayo, an immigrant from Ecuador in his mid-20s who died on the construction job site — that inspired the new bill.
“Nearly 500 construction workers have been killed in the past decade in the state of New York with an alarming spike in the deaths of Latino and immigrant workers,” Peralta said.
A 2013 report by the Center of Popular Democracy found that between 2003 and 2011, 75 percent of construction workers who died on the job were U.S.-born Latinos or immigrants. In 60 percent of the fatal death by falling cases investigated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the victims were Hispanic and/or immigrants. The percentage jumps to 74 in New York City, and to 88 in Queens.
NICE, a community-based non-profit organization in Jackson Heights, provides health, safety training, and jobs for workers who currently live in the community or just arrived from abroad.
Manuel Castro, executive director of NICE, said the deaths and injuries of Latino and immigrant workers in Queens is a big issue it is trying to resolve.
“We’re not just worried about the worker deaths, but also the accidents because it’s not just scrapes and bruises,” he said. “People are losing their eyesight, arms and legs and become paralyzed. These are devastating accidents.”
Castro said employers need to take the appropriate precautions to ensure workers’ safety, but also the state should become involved to prevent such tragedies from occurring.
On April 28, Edgar Pazmino, along with other workers who died on construction sites in the past year were remembered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Castro is calling on authorities to continue investigating Edgar’s death, urging the state Legislature to pass Carlos’ bill to bring justice to workers.
“We won’t rest until something is done about this crisis,” Castro said.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha