Protecting Day Laborers Working Dangerous Construction Jobs

Posted on May 16, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Catholic Charities NY Graduates First Group in New OSHA Training

Standing on street corners in the burning sun or freezing cold hoping for a day’s work are just the beginning of brutalities day laborers face.  Accidents are rampant, injuries ruinous. And most are preventable.  Already, during the first two months of this year, four construction workers in New York City died and 16 were injured.

While unions provide members with safety training, non-union workers, particularly vulnerable day laborers who typically lack immigration documents, had been left without any mandated training on how to stay safe.

This is why Catholic Charities NY already provided 10-hour job safety training sessions for the “Obreros Unidos” day laborers we work with in the Bronx and Yonkers.  It is why we joined the successful fight that now requires construction job site supervisors to have site safety plans and require safety training for all construction workers.  And it is why we now celebrate the graduation this past Sunday, May 13, of our first 61 day laborers - men and women - to complete the newly mandated 30 additional hours of federal OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration) safety training.  They are now in full compliance with the City to work under the new OSHA trainings curriculum.

Day laborers "are often the face of immigration in this country," says Catholic Chrities Bronx Regional Director Rev. Eric Cruz, pictured below, left, handing out graduation certificates at Sunday's ceremony. "They are talented, gifted, mothers and fathers working to raise a family and build a community." 

That their graduation occurred on Mother’s Day is no coincidence.  While hoping work will provide their children with key to their future, mothers of all nations share nightmares about possible amputations and 20-stories falls faced by their children working in construction.  Catholic Charities NY’s new OSHA training programs offer protections to workers who had no protections. 

Immigrants “experience rampant wage theft, pervasive construction accidents, unchecked workplace hazards,” reports the Day Laborer Workforce Initiative, a coalition of organizations that provide services for day laborers.

The expanded OSHA training programs are another example, says the program’s coordinator, Catholic Charities Community Services Associate Director in the Bronx Gabriela Rosa  “how Catholic Charities play a role in their empowerment through education and support.

Catholic Charities helps day laborer men and women earn a living, contribute to society and become part of their communities. We provide educational workshops, leadership training, and opportunities for economic empowerment. Some programs teach OSHA approved on the job safety classes and skills classes in knitting, sewing and other occupations. Services may also include English as a Second Language, G.E.D. and Literacy classes, immigration legal assistance, recovery of lost wages and emergency help with social services.

"Most recognize that if they accept the fruits (of the labor) of these ladies and men, they should accept their humanity," Rev. Cruz adds after the graduation ceremony.  "Accepting their humanity means giving them their rights, recognizing who they are as an image of God, protecting their dignity when they are in the work site, making sure that institutions that are supposed to administer justice are accessible to them."

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