Dying for another high-rise in Austin..

by julydogs


Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,

Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;

Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,

They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,

We died in your valleys and died on your plains.

We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,

Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

–‘Deportee’, Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman

The grisly murders of a 9-year old girl and her father in Arizona’s Pima county just north of the Mexico border grabbed headlines this weekend due to the alleged killers involvement in the extreme anti-immigration Minutemen movement. See my posting  from yesterday.  More details can be found  in a  big takeout this morning at Everett, Washington’s Herald

Much noise will be made by Minutemen and other anti-immigrant activists (including nativist airhorns like Lou Dobbs) over the murdered father reportedly dealing dope for Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel. That’s the main media frame on things Mexican these days. Working the game for the cartels in the US is a high-risk job for immigrants, but so is legit employment–and for much less money.

3 dead after construction accident in Austin


Associated Press

The three men killed when part of a scaffold collapsed and plunged them several stories down were immigrant construction workers with families in Latin America, friends and family say.

It was unclear who employed Raudel Ramirez Camacho, 27; Wilson Joel Irias Cerritos, 30; and Jesus Angel Lopez Perez, 28, the Austin American-Statesman reported Saturday.

The men died Wednesday afternoon while working on a high-rise apartment project, said Harry Evans, a battalion chief with the Austin Fire Department. Officials say two of the workers fell 11 to 13 stories while a third fell a shorter distance onto the roof of a seven-story parking garage.

Irias and Lopez were from a rural town in Honduras and had been in Austin for less than a year after a stint in Florida, said their neighbor Ruben Flores.

“They were paisanos,” Flores said. “They were very hardworking. They would leave every morning at 6 a.m.”

Ramirez had a wife, a 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in Queretaro, Mexico, said his father-in-law, Arturo Miranda, who lives in Austin.

“My daughter is destroyed,” said Miranda. “I haven’t been able to stop her from crying by telephone. She keeps asking me to tell her it’s not true.”

Since 1995 the on-the-job death rate for Mexican workers here in the US  as compared to native-born laborers has almost tripled–going from 30% to 80% more likely to die.

– Deaths among Mexicans increased faster than their population in the U.S. Between 1996 and 2002, as the number of Mexican workers grew by about half, from 4 million to 6 million, the number of deaths rose by about two-thirds, from 241 to 387. Deaths peaked at 420 in 2001.

– Though their odds of dying in the Southeast and parts of the West are far greater than the U.S. average, fatalities occur everywhere: Mexicans died cutting North Carolina tobacco and Nebraska beef, felling trees in Colorado and welding a balcony in Florida, trimming grass at a Las Vegas golf course and falling from scaffolding in Georgia.

– Even compared to other immigrants — those who historically work America’s hardest jobs — what’s happening to Mexicans is exceptional in scope and scale. Mexicans are nearly twice as likely as the rest of the immigrant population to die at work.

‘Dying to Work’, an Associated Press investigative report..

Emily Timm at the Workers Defense Project in Austin today told a local TV reporter:  “That sort of story is always shocking and very upsetting, but based on what we found in our study, these abuses are widespread.”

142 construction workers died on the job in Texas in 2007.

Timm: “That’s nearly twice as many deaths as any other state in the country. And, those statistics exist because regulators are not doing their jobs, because we don’t have strict enough policies to make sure employers are doing their part to ensure the safety of their workers.”

Full story at News 8 Austin. For an in-depth report on the perils of construction work in Texas,  go to Melissa del Bosque’s  feature in this week’s Texas Observer.

And if the risks are high for immigrant workers, the pay is not. Consider the new Orlando Magic venue  construction..

City officials have accused one of the biggest contractors working on the new Orlando Magic arena of underpaying more than 100 workers — and angry union leaders say the company is also hiring undocumented workers to build the team’s home court.

Orlando officials overseeing the construction of the $480 million city-owned venue say Capform violated city policies meant to ensure that workers in the construction trades are paid a fair wage. The city requires contractors and subcontractors to pay their workers the local ”prevailing wage” for the job they are doing.

Capform was awarded a $19.8 million contract to build the concrete superstructure of the new arena. It began work in October and will be largely finished this month.

After city officials notified the company of the violations, some workers were given back pay. Jim Renaud, vice president of the Carrollton, Texas-based company, said Capform resolved all of the problems, which he called ”clerical errors” resulting from workers being transferred from other job sites with different pay scales.  —Miami Herald

As for the three dead young workers in Austin–Raudel Ramirez Camacho, Wilson Joel Irias Cerritos and Jeus Angel Lopez Perez–I wonder if the future occupants at the 21 Rio condo will know their names or how much they sacrificed for the view.