From Jessica Ramos <[email protected]>
Subject Remembering Our Fallen Workers
Date April 28, 2023 3:00 PM
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Construction fatalities are on the rise. Here’s what I am doing about it.

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Dear Friend,

Today is Workers’ Memorial Day. It’s a moment for us to remember people who have died or been injured on the job, people like Gurmeet Singh.

Gurmeet came to the United States from a Punjabi farming village in about 2002. He spent over a decade in New York working construction jobs and laying bricks. Gurmeet was a veteran of the Indian Army. He sent thousands of dollars to his family in India every month and, with Gurmeet’s help, three of his children were able to come to the United States as well.

By 2014, Gurmeet was ready to return home. However, his boss at a subcontracting firm, a man he considered a friend, persuaded him to take one last job working on a hotel in Midtown. Gurmeet lost his life on that job site.

Gurmeet fell off a scaffold that was eight stories high. Investigators later determined his boss was taking shortcuts to get the job done quickly. Workers at the hotel used high platforms without guardrails. They had to jump between scaffoldings. When he died in April 2014, Gurmeet was not wearing a required harness and had not received necessary training. After the accident, Gurmeet’s boss and supposed friend said, “I do not know the name of the deceased.”

Gurmeet’s story is an extreme example of how our workers — many of whom are immigrants — are seen as disposable. Even when they make the ultimate sacrifice, workers go unnamed and their stories are not told. And there are more and more tragic stories like Gurmeet’s.

Last year, 22 workers were killed on construction sites in the five boroughs. That’s a ten year high and it’s simply unacceptable. The building boom in our city has led to profits for real estate executives and pain for far too many families.

Warehouse workers are also dealing with dangerous conditions. In January, federal investigators found Amazon failed to maintain basic standards at three warehouses, including one in the Hudson Valley. Over the past few years, injury rates have surged at Amazon’s facilities in our state as they continue their aggressive expansion here. Warehouses are another space where record profits are coming at the expense of worker safety.

Workers’ Memorial Day is not just a moment of remembrance, it’s also a day of action. Over the past few years, I have worked on legislation to protect our workers. A bill I sponsored in 2020 led to the creation of a public registry for construction fatalities to promote accountability. Last year, I helped pass Carlos’ Law, which will increase penalties on negligent contractors.

There is still more to be done. In February, with the support of union leaders, I helped introduce the T.E.M.P. Act, which is designed to protect workers from temperature related illnesses. Extreme weather is becoming the norm and this legislation, which is the first of its kind in this country, would enforce basic standards for hydration, heating, and air conditioning on job sites.

Today is a moment to reflect and to stand with the labor movement. The stories of the workers we have lost break my heart. I spend every day fighting for them and am so glad to have you with me.

In service,
Jessica Ramos

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