NEW YORK, N.Y.—Bagpipes skirled on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral Apr. 25, and the funereal thump of bass drums resounded off the high vaulted ceilings as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3’s kilt-clad pipe band marched in. They were followed by a procession of carpenters, ironworkers, insulators, laborers, operating engineers, and more for the annual “hardhat Mass” commemorating construction workers killed on the job.
“We’re representing, showing face and giving respect for all our fallen brothers and sisters,” said Bricklayers Local 1 member Nicolas Taveras Jr. “Unfortunately, we all get hit with it. We try to keep everything safe and keep building.”
“We’re here for all construction workers. We’re not just here for the union guys,” said Lenny Legotte, head of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1.
“This is a sacred day in the construction industry,” Father Brian Jordan, chaplain to the city’s union building-trades workers, declared from the pulpit, flanked by blue-and-gold banners from Teamsters Local 282 and Plumbers Local 1. The New York diocese is the only one that holds such a Mass, he said.
He read off the names of the 16 workers who died on the job in the past year, as well as that of Marine Cpl. Robert Hendricks, a Laborers Local 731 member killed in a bombing in Afghanistan earlier this month. The 16 dead included two union members, 13 nonunion workers, and a security guard.
Harry Ramnauth, 67, a security guard killed May 26, 2018 when he was hit by a 3,000-pound glass panel at a luxury building on West 57th Street.
Angel Espinoza, 28, a father of three killed July 12 when he was hit by a falling beam in Morningside Heights.
Carlos Gabrieli, 50, fatally cut by a chainsaw Aug. 10 on Staten Island.
Luis Ramon Almonte, 47, buried when a wall over the trench he was working in collapsed Sept. 12 in Sunset Park.
Juan Otoya, 66, hit by a road saw Sept. 14 on the Upper East Side.
Segundo Caitano Tenesaca.
Over Paredes, 44, crushed Nov. 21 by a metal wall when a forklift tipped over at a condominium in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Marco Martinez, who Father Jordan called the “victim of an unjust and unscrupulous employer.”
Nelson Salinas, 51, hit by a falling parapet stone Apr. 8, 2019 while doing façade repairs on a Midtown building.
Eric Mendoza, 23, a bricklayer who fell off the roof of a 13-story luxury building in Brooklyn Heights Apr. 10.
Gregory Echevarria, 34, crushed by a counterweight while helping put together a crane in SoHo Apr. 13.
“We are with you always,” Jordan told the family members there.
Construction accounts for more on-the-job deaths than any other industry in New York City, accounting for three-eighths of the total in 2016, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twenty workers were killed on the job in 2017, according to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. All but a few were nonunion workers.
“Union contractors make an investment in training and safety, so workers can go home to their families,” Lou Coletti, head of the Building Trades Employers Association, a trade group for union contractors, told LaborPress. “I don’t know what nonunion is doing, but based on what’s happening, it’s either nothing or what they’re doing is not enough.”
“I hope people are paying attention to this,” said IBEW Local 3 member Nikki Perna. “Everybody wants to go home safe.”
“I’m here for my union sister Melissa del Valle Ortiz,” Carpenters Local 157 member Cecilia Baez Raymond told LaborPress. Gregory Echevarria was del Valle Ortiz’s cousin.
“He was the latest one,” Baez Raymond said. “He was trying to push someone out of the way, and the crane fell on him.”
Echevarria left behind a three-month-old baby and three older children, she said.