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Mexican Consulate Joins in Agreement to Prevent Abuse of Construction Workers

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Thursday, September 3, 2015   

NEW YORK – Advocates say an agreement between the Mexican consulate and city and federal agencies may help reduce the alarming number of fatalities among Mexican workers at construction sites.

Studies have found that while Latinos make up only 7.7 percent of all construction workers, Latinos made up half of all on-the-job fatalities. Most of those fatalities were Latinos of Mexican descent.

Thanu Yakupitiyage, communications manager at the New York Immigration Coalition, says the work is physically demanding and dangerous, making it unattractive to people with other alternatives.

"Oftentimes, if you are an undocumented laborer, the easiest kind of employment to get in cities is in the construction industry," he says. "They're constantly hiring."

Under the agreement the consulate will work with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and city agencies to develop and distribute information on safety and workers' rights. Similar agreements have been signed in other cities around the country.

Besides safety, the agreement is designed to help end worker abuse. Yakupitiyage says immigrants are often victims of wage theft – but reporting it can be difficult.

"It's not very straightforward as to how a worker would stand up for his rights, and how a worker could approach a city agency to say there is worker abuse and wage theft happening," he says.

Those signing the agreement include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Catholic Migration Services, a legal advocacy organization serving immigrants. The agreement is expected to benefit Latino construction workers throughout the tri-state region.


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