It’s been a year since Fausto Flores, a local construction worker, fell to his death while building an upscale condo complex downtown. He was cutting a wooden handrail on the fourth floor when he slipped. Flores wasn’t wearing a harness.
Workers and advocates gathered last night outside that building to remember him — and more than a dozen others — who’ve lost their lives at work.
Since January, five people have died while working in Nashville area construction sites according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Sixteen others died in the two years prior.
Union workers and advocates called out their names and placed roses in front of a makeshift memorial in their honor.
Rosa Ponce with the International Union of Painters says they'd like to see stricter policies put in place that put worker safety first.
“We have been focused on the six teen deaths in the last two years here, but we are having many workers coming to us about accidents that aren’t being reported,” says Ponce.
She says that at many job sites, contractors and supervisors aren’t properly training workers or providing the safety equipment that they need. There are other challenges, says Ponce, like the fact that a number of the workers are Spanish speakers.
“Some might have a vague idea about workers comp or say ‘the boss did take me to the ER but then he didn’t want to give them the insurance,' and now they’re getting the bills.”
Ponce says all of this leads to unreported injuries. To counter it, volunteers like Fernando Rivadeneyra say they've been going to job sites, trying to let other workers know their rights and offering free OSHA safety training.
Rivadeneyra says it’s been a challenge.
“They are afraid to speak, they are afraid to lose their jobs.They've been threatened not to speak to the press or speak to organizers."
He points to an empty construction site nearby. He says he went there the day before to invite other workers to the rally. Today, he says, the workers were sent home from work early..