CHICAGO – At a vigil on Chicago’s Northwest Side Tuesday morning, mournful music and many prayers honored a fallen construction worker, Yaroslav Zhuk.
But faith and labor leaders also were there to demand change.
“When you don’t do the right thing, somebody dies, somebody gets hurt. That’s what happened here on this worksite,” said Don Villar, Secretary-Treasurer, Chicago Federation of Labor.
The remembrance comes on the one-year anniversary of the death of 55-year-old Zhuk. He was helping to build now complete condos in the 4200 block of West Belmont.
“Mr. Zhuk tragically fell four stories, head first and landed in a dumpster,” said Rev. C.J. Hawking, Arise Chicago Executive Director.
Labor leaders said Zhuk was an immigrant from Ukraine who worked as a bricklayer and fellow construction workers say the site didn’t provide many necessary safety protections.
“Yuroslav didn’t come to this country to die. He came to provide better life for him and his family. His employer failed to give him proper training and protect the more valuable thing which is life,” said Stan Kulasik, Bricklayers Union.
“OSHA cited this worksite for not having proper guardrails and for not equipping workers with proper fall protection. Mr. Zhuk did not even have a hardhat given to him,” said Rev. Hawking.
The group blames Noah Properties for Zhuk’s death.
Noah Properties responded to FOX 32 Chicago, writing in part, “unfortunately sometimes horrible accidents happen that are out of our control.”
The owners of the real estate development firm also accuse the Local 1 Labor Union of pressuring them to hire more union workers, writing they are, “harassing us on a daily basis at our job sites, as well as our residence, where we live with our family.”
Noah Properties believe Tuesday’s vigil was another pressure tactic, while the labor leaders say unionizing all construction jobs in Chicago would take away the need for vigils by creating safer work sites.