The blue van pulled up to the curb in front of the trauma center in one of the largest medical centers in the county. The side doors slid open and a man in workers’ clothes was shoved unceremoniously onto the sidewalk where he fell into a crumpled heap. The van then sped away and the body lay there motionless – bleeding out until the guard spotted him and called for a gurney and a team to get him into the trauma unit where he could be triaged and then treated for his unknown injuries. The blood pool on the sidewalk was a signal that the injuries were serious and that the person needed immediate attention.
There was no one with him to tell his story to the triage nurses. His wallet was intact but when his social security card was checked for his name, it turned out to be a false id. He did not appear to have any medical insurance, not that it would have mattered since the trauma unit was under strict instructions to treat anyone who showed up with injuries. Since the institution was a public agency, you and I and the other taxpayers would pay for this treatment.
After the patient was treated and had regained consciousness, the team discovered that he had fallen off of the roof at a construction site where he was working as a roofer on day labor status. Since he was a day laborer or 1099er when he fell, the superintendent put him into his van, delivered him to the emergency room and dumped him.
This is a true story and it happens too many times in the environment of the current construction industry. Workers go uninsured because of owners pushing to get projects completed as rapidly as possible or subcontractors trying to keep their key workers employed by underbidding and then using 1099ers or day laborers to try to make up for the unreasonable bids. Safety on many of the jobs is terrible and increases the damage to workers who are forced to work in that environment in order to feed their families and themselves.
It is time for the industry, including the owners, general contractors and subcontractors, to make the changes necessary to ensure that all workers on their crews and projects are legal, trained and supported by their companies through thick and thin. It is time for all of the industry to provide medical benefits for their employees.
That is what Construction Citizen is all about.
What do you think? How can we get that accomplished?