For immediate release
December 5, 2007
In response to the tragic death of two North East Linen workers this weekend, as reported in the Star Ledger and New York Times, UNITE HERE issues the following statement:
Wilfredo Larancuent, International Vice President, UNITE HERE:
“We grieve with the families of Victor Diaz and Carlos Diaz who now face the holiday season without their loved ones.
We are enraged by this preventable and senseless loss of human life. This tragedy is no accident. It is an irresponsible act of indifference to worker safety by North East Linen.
Workers at the company have been fighting for safer jobs, better conditions, and a voice at work for over a year. Just last week, the federal government charged North East Linen with illegally firing a union supporter and making threats. When North East Linen employees work in fear and without union protection, they are at the mercy of their employer’s failure to provide a safe workplace.
We expect these horrendous deaths will serve as a wake up call to the company, and that it will start taking responsibility for workers’ safety. North East Linen workers need safe jobs from the company, not denials and appeals.”
Eric Frumin, Director of Health and Safety, UNITE HERE
“We call on OSHA to conduct a comprehensive investigation into this tragedy and hold North East Linen responsible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
There’s no excuse for two workers to be found dead, without the required protective equipment, without a safe way out, and without a way to be safely rescued. Tanks and other confined spaces are among the most lethal conditions workers can be exposed to. That’s why there are clear and detailed standards for how to operate safely in those cases.
North East Linen knew it had a responsibility to protect workers from lethal confined space hazards. Just last year, OSHA cited the company’s sister plant in New Haven for violating part of the OSHA standard on lethal confined space hazards. If the standard had been fully implemented at North East Linen, these workers would probably be alive today. Victor and Carlos Diaz’s deaths reveal what happens when a company puts workers’ lives second to greed. It’s time for North East Linen to change its priorities.”
About UNITE HERE:
UNITE HERE has been organizing with North East Linen and New England Linen (New Haven, CT) workers since 2006. More than 40,000 laundry workers are members of UNITE HERE, including around 6,000 in the New York metropolitan area. UNITE HERE has been a leading expert and force for change on health and safety in the laundry industry for decades.