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Construction workers' accident spurs protest

Some North Carolina workers face dangerous working conditions every day. Unfortunately, dangerous conditions can be made worse when construction contractors employ subcontractors who don't provide workers' compensation benefits to their employees. Such a situation would not only hurt a workers' ability to get compensation for injuries, but could also result in less safe working conditions and even more construction worker accidents.

In the wake of a deadly accident in late October that killed a roofer, over 50 Connecticut carpenters held a strike. They claim that one construction company needs to be held responsible for subcontractors that hire employees who are not covered under their workers' compensation benefits.

The 36-year-old worker who fell more than 50 feet to his death in late October did not work for the construction company. Instead, he worked for a roofing subcontractor hired by the construction company.

After the October accident, state inspectors cited the roofing subcontractor for illegally employing the victim and his two brothers as independent workers rather than full-time employees. It was this misclassification that allowed the subcontractor to sidestep workers' compensation benefits for the men. The company was also cited for unpaid wages. The victim's brothers said they needed those wages to pay for their brother's funeral.

In a perfect world, North Carolina workers who are involved in a debilitating accident have the right to receive workers' compensation benefits to help pay for medical bills and lost wages. When employers don't provide the benefits, it prevents workers from being able to get the financial help they deserve when they need it most. In this situation, workers are stepping up in an effort to prevent further injustice and additional accidents.

Source: Stamford Advocate, "Workers protest against Stamford contractor," Jeff Morganteen, Dec. 1, 2011

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