North Carolina employer tries to keep a work fatality out of the workers comp system

The Ashville NC Citizen Times (reporter: Jay Ostendorf) carried several articles about this case, which was related to me by the health worker cited below. Certain details are omitted due to the current sensitivity of the matter at this time (1/06).
In western North Carolina, a local newspaper, The Sylvia Herald, carried a funeral home notice that Raul Carbajal, 37, of Hendersonville, North Carolina died Thursday, August 12, 2004, from injuries sustained in an vehicle accident. “A memorial service was held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hendersonville. The body will be sent to Comitan, Mexico, for service and burial.”
As reported by the Ashville Citizen Times, Mendez was one of eight in a pickup truck which crossed a highway grass median and on-coming lane traffic, broke through the guardrail, and rolled over spilling out passengers and tomato boxes. Mendez died; most others were hospitalized. The other occupants and condition a few days post accident were Armando Sanchez Soto, 44, stable condition; Orlando Martin Lopez, 25, stable condition; Jose Carlos Sanchez, no age available, serious but stable condition; Diego Jimenze, 23, treated and released; Adan Trujillo, 30, stable condition; Antonio Melgar, 35, stable condition; Sander Carillo, 22, treated and released.
An outreach worker at the local public health clinic arranged for an attorney to take on the cases for resolution in the workers comp system. For doing this normally uncontroversial act, the outreach worker was castigated by Mendez’s Hispanic employer, who still today (Winter, 2006) will not let this worker onto its worksite. According to this worker, the employer was intent on pretty much isolating its workers from the state’s work safety, workers comp, and other labor standards.

The Erosion of Worker Safety (1/4/06)

I wrote this Op-Ed article for the Boston Globe, starting with:

Massachusetts’ distinguished promise of worker safety is fraying. More of our workers work unsafely. When they sustain a serious work injury they are less able to access the protections of our four-generations-old workers’ compensation system.

“It has become easier for employers to cut corners on their legal obligations. If Congress succeeds in criminalizing undocumented worker status, it will become even easier.”

The Brazilian Immigrant Center was very helpful in my research for this article, as well as Jon Coppelman of Lynch Ryan, a workers comp expert and former union carpenter who works with small employers to reduce injuries.
Combining vulnerable undocumented workers with employers willing to violate safety and workers comp laws makes a toxic cocktail. Enforcement of workers comp laws includes making sure that employers required to purchase workers comp insurance do so. This is strictly a state responsibility.
As a first step in enforcing the insurance provisions, state regulators and prosecutors need to take enforcement provisions seriously. This means monitoring employers, translating leads quickly into investigations, and getting employers to comply with the law without necessarily shutting the employer down and thus destroying jobs.
The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (617-727-4900) is aggressively enforcing the employer insurance provisions. It has greatly improved the results from leads. According to the Department the large majority of employers it has targeted stay in business while complying with the law.
Unions, community activists, legal aid attorneys, and medical doctors are excellent sources of information about non-complying employers. They and state regulators need to work closely.

Continue reading The Erosion of Worker Safety (1/4/06)

Nationwide survey of day labor hiring sites

The 1/22 Sunday New York Times carried an article on a just-released nationwide study of day laborers, Broad Survey of Day Laborers Finds High Level of Injuries and Pay Violations by Steven Greenhouse. (Accesssing the article may require free registration).
The co-authors are two of the most visible academic-based researchers of immigrant labor. Working Immigrants plans to introduce their prior studies on local day labor markets (such as Chicago and Washington DC) in the near future.
Co-author Abel Valenzuela Jr., is on the faculty of University of California at Los Angeles and director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Co-author Nik Theodore is the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The NYT article recaps some of the major findings from this newly-released study, but as of today (1/22), the full study is not yet available on the Net. The following are excerpts from the study:

The first nationwide study on day laborers has found that such workers are a nationwide phenomenon, with 117,600 people gathering at more than 500 hiring sites to look for work on a typical day.

The survey found that three-fourths of day laborers were illegal immigrants and that more than half said employers had cheated them on wages in the previous two months.

The study, based on interviews with 2,660 workers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia, found that day laborers earned a median of $10 an hour and $700 month. The study said that only a small number earned more than $15,000 a year.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Forty-nine percent of those interviewed said that in the previous two months an employer had not paid them for one or more days’ work. Forty-four percent said some employers did not give them any breaks during the workday, while 28 percent said employers had insulted them.

Continue reading Nationwide survey of day labor hiring sites

Workers compensation rights of undocumented workers (2006)

Work Comp Central discusses a noteworthy new report issued by a task force of workers compensation lawyers:

State courts have not yet resolved tensions between federal immigration law and workers’ compensation statutes, leaving in question exactly what benefits to which illegal aliens are entitled when they are injured on the job, according to an analysis by the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF).

The legal analysis, written by lawyers for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the New York State Insurance Fund, outlines key state court decisions and how they interact with the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

In a future post, I will be offering commentary on this analysis. AASCIF is the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds. Its members are workers compensation insurers, which at some time in the past were created in part with state government support to make sure that employers will have access to insurance. A few of the largest, in CA, NY, OH and WA, are state agencies staffed by civil servants.
The full report and a complete list of members with contact information can be found at AASCIF.