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Building Trades, Community Orgs Make Final Push for a Just Sentence in 23-Year-Old’s Workplace Death

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A coalition of community groups, labor unions, and worker centers are calling for a conviction during the final days of arguments in a case against Harco Construction, LLC.  The case centers around the death of 23-year-old Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in an excavation collapse in New York City’s Meatpacking District in April of 2015. 

The Ecuadorian immigrant was crushed when the walls of the site collapsed around him.  Prosecutors brought charges against two construction managers — Wilmer Cueva of Sky Materials and Alfonso Prestia of Harco Construction — noting that they had ignored repeated warnings from private inspectors that treacherous conditions existed at the site.

As the duo faces the reality of doing time for their neglect, worker advocates are ramping up efforts to ensure justice is served for Moncayo while seizing an opportunity to call for stronger regulations and enforcement henceforth.  More frequent jail time for hazardous behavior is one way the groups say this type of end result can be avoided.

Among those who gathered outside of the courthouse for a morning vigil were representatives and advocates from the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, El Centro del Inmigrante, La Colmena (formerly Staten Island Community Job Center), Make the Road New York, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), New Labor, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), Wind of the Spirit, Workers’ Justice Project (WJP) and Workplace Project.  

In a statement, Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said:

“The Building Trades stand united in our resolve to ensure that the family of Carlos Moncayo receives justice. For far too long criminally negligent and reckless contractors have been merely slapped on the wrist with no real consequences. The Harco Construction trial has the opportunity to change all of that. Irresponsible contractors should be put on notice that they can no longer put profits ahead of the safety of workers and that they will be held liable for their actions.”

Gonzalo Mercado of the group La Colmena added:

“We continue to stand up for Carlos Moncayo and all the workers that have lost their lives trying to put food on the table. We cannot allow one more preventable death and this trial should send a clear message to all unscrupulous employers to stop cutting corners and protect the lives of their workers. We also look forward to work with lawmakers to strengthen and create legislation to enhance worker protections on health and safety.”

The possible conviction in the Moncayo case follows the decision by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson to seek manslaughter charges against a Bensonhurst business owner who forced his workers into unsafe conditions that resulted in a six-story fatal fall for one of his workers.  That owner, Salvatore Schirripa, could face up to 15 years in prison.

New York City has seen a wave of workplace fatalities coincide with its construction boom. In 2015, 17 workers died on unsafe construction sites. 5 more lives have been lost in 2016.  As Charlene Obernauer, executive director of NYCOSH, notes:

“The lives of construction workers, like Carlos Moncayo, who are building New York every day, should never be sacrificed for the sake of ever higher profits. Harco Construction must be convicted to show all contractors that they are criminally responsible when workers die because of their disregard for workers lives.”


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