Remembering an "Unknown Worker"

Construction workers demand "No more deaths"

Cristina Tzintzún and Christian Hurtado address the crowd
Cristina Tzintzún and Christian Hurtado address the crowd (photo by Jana Birchum)

Tuesday, July 14, Workers Defense Project held a vigil for 28-year-old Mexican national Ramiro Loa, who fell to his death while working on the construction of the Eastside Station Apartments.

A cross laid at the construction site
A cross laid at the construction site (photo by Jana Birchum)

The apartment complex, which bills itself as "where vintage meets vitality," is located near Plaza Saltillo at 1700 E. Fourth, directly across the street from the Chalmers Courts public housing. It is owned by Georgia-based Flournoy Properties; their construction arm, Flournoy Construction, is the general contractor on the project. Loa was employed by subcontractor Maverick Framing.

Loa, who was working on a third-story balcony, was standing on top of a sawhorse when he fell. According to WDP Development Director Brigid Hall, Loa had no health insurance and no workers' comp insurance. WDP learned of his death from an Occupational Safety and Health Admin­i­stration report (OSHA's investigation into Loa's death remains open). When WDP visited the site to speak with other workers, they discovered that many did not know one of their own had died while on the job. WDP also witnessed another worker engaged in the same unsafe practice that led to Loa's fall, and is investigating other alleged violations.

WDP members walk to the site
WDP members walk to the site (photo by Jana Birchum)

OSHA safety regulations require employers to provide their workers with the appropriate safety gear, but it's common practice for the responsibility to be illegally pushed onto the workers themselves, Hall said. Workers are not required to be given comprehensive* safety training. A representative for Flournoy told the Chronicle that the company does not comment on open investigations.

Participants in the vigil carried signs reading "No más muertes," or "No more deaths." None of the assembled, some of them construction workers themselves, had known Loa personally. His family has yet to be reached for comment. St. Andrew's Presbyterian Minister Jim Rigby said, "We don't know much about him, other than his name," and emphasized the importance of remembering the "unknown workers." Nonetheless, emotion over Loa's death was palpable: WDP member Christian Hurtado said he was "furious to hear about another accident"; Hurtado's father died in a construction accident 11 years ago. "We're tired of seeing workers have to pay with their lives," said WDP Executive Director Cristina Tzintzún.

*An earlier version of this column read, "Workers are not required to be given any safety training." It has been updated to clarify that workers are not required to receive comprehensive safety training.

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Workers Defense Project, WDP, Ramiro Loa, construction workers, Flournoy Properties, Maverick Framing, OSHA, labor, Cristina Tzintzún, Christian Hurtado, Brigid Hall, Eastside Station Apartments

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