Statement: No Just Punishment for Criminal Contractor, Harco Construction: Weak State Laws Protect Dangerous Companies

STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              

CONTACT: Mónica Novoa, NYCOSH 

mnovoa@nycosh.org, 929-366-5320 

 

 

 

Five Months After Precedent-Setting Conviction in Worksite Death,

No Just Punishment for Criminal Contractor, Harco Construction:

Weak State Laws Protect Dangerous Companies

 

In July of 2016, Harco Construction was sentenced to conditional discharge after a June conviction in the preventable worksite death of Carlos Moncayo, a 22 year-old construction worker who died in a trench cave-in after repeated warnings to the general contractor, subcontractor and their corresponding supervisor and foreman had been well documented. In July, Harco’s attorney defiantly emphasized that the company was not guilty, would not comply and would rather just pay the minimal fine, and that is just what they did today.  

 

The court originally ordered that the company fund a Public Service Announcement campaign focused on warning construction workers and the public about health and safety, particularly about trench hazards, or pay the legally mandated maximum $10k fine if they failed to comply.  The most the company could be fined based on state laws that govern company wrong-doing, was the absurdly low fine.  

 

The $10K was reduced from the projected $35K maximum because several charges were in the same category. Harco Construction was convicted of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count; Criminally Negligent Homicide, a class E felony, 1 count; Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 3 counts).  

 

“This trial is historic and we are proud of the momentum that is building to shift public perception about the responsibility bosses and supervisors have to keep workers safe. In a dangerous industry such as construction, the only way to transform the industry is to end the impunity of those who place profit over lives,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, NYCOSH’s Associate Director.  The judge on the Harco trial referred to the weak state laws that allow a corporation to get away with a nominal fine despite a manslaughter conviction – sending the message that companies can continue to act with impunity. Workers and their allies are building a movement to organize, prosecute, and legislate so that employers shift toward a culture of preventing injuries and deaths.  

 

In regard to the cases against the other defendants indicted in connection with the incident, Sky Materials Corp., the company’s foreman Wilmer Cueva and Harco’s site supervisor, Alfonso Prestia, NYCOSH believes that if the proper laws were in place to protect workers, all corporations and individuals involved, would be held accountable and be justly punished for their role in this worksite death. While the Sky Materials trial is pending; the company’s foreman Wilmer Cueva, was convicted by a New York State Supreme Court jury of Criminally Negligent Homicide and  Reckless Endangerment  and sentenced to 1-3 years in prison on December 15. Following a deadlocked jury, Prestia got probation and community service for criminally negligent homicide in a plea deal. As reported by Newsday, in regard to Prestia’s sentencing, Carlos Moncayo’s family didn’t want to undergo another trial. 

 

NYCOSH has followed the trials and accompanied the Moncayo family jointly with a community comprised of health and safety advocates, unions, worker centers, faith community and especially workers, that showed up for the family in accompaniment during this trial, including: the family of Delfino Velasquez, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, El Centro del Inmigrante, Iglesia San Jeronimo, La Colmena (formerly Staten Island Community Job Center), Make the Road New York, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), New Labor, Obreros Unidos de Yonkers/Catholic Charities, USW and The Labor Center, Wind of the Spirit, Workers’ Justice Project (WJP) and Workplace Project. 

 

Our hearts are with Carlos Moncayo’s family today – they deserved better and he deserved to reach home safely. 

 

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