Deadly fire highlights unsafe, criminal working conditions for Denver construction workers

Denver – Two people are dead Wednesday after a fire engulfed a soon-to-be apartment building in Denver. The project, one that Mark Thompson, Special Representative from Denver’s Carpenters Union Local 510, had been to previously, was known to have poor safety standards and used known labor brokers to supply the work.

Labor brokers are often sought by subcontractors to bring cheap, unskilled, and often precarious workers onto job sites as ‘independent contractors,’ pay them cash, and often engage in illegal labor practices like payroll fraud. These activities make the subcontractor more competitive by driving down labor costs but comes at a price – lower, many times illegally low, safety standards.

“They’re bringing guys in to do the task, paying them cash under the table. There’s no workers’ comp, no unemployment, no taxes, no record of these individuals being on a job site.” Thompson stated  to a local news station, Fox 31 News.

As was evidenced when the subcontractor from United Builders Service (UBS) stated after the fire erupted he did not know how many men he had on site that day.

“I did speak with the dry wall subcontractor. I spoke with their foreman. I asked him, how many guys did you have on site? So we can start to rally these guys up and account for them. He looked at me straight in the eye and said I don’t know,” Thompson continued.

Unfortunately, yesterday two people lost their lives due to these types of illegal labor practices. Criminal Colorado, a Denver area labor campaign led by your Brother and Sister Carpenters is bringing light to these conditions that are endemic to the Colorado construction industry. They quickly responded yesterday to stand up for dignified, safe construction work across the nation and are asking who will be held responsible for this tragedy?