Charlotte labor leaders demand justice after construction worker dies on the job

Charlotte labor leaders demand justice after construction worker dies on the job
(Micah Smith | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Community members and labor leaders held a news conference Wednesday morning to demand justice for a construction worker who fell to his death in uptown Charlotte a week before.

It happened at a building on the 600 block of South Tryon Street. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, 24-year-old Juventino Mata-Hernandez fell after an alleged elevator malfunction last Wednesday.

Family and community members gathered for a news conference to ask authorities to hold the construction company, Gilbane, accountable for Hernandez's death.

One speaker, Elisa Benitez, said Hernandez's death was similar to her uncle's 20 years ago.

"My uncle Orlando Hernandez passed away in a similar fashion. He also fell from a building in Charlotte, in downtown. He was only 21-years-old at the time, and he, unfortunately, fell into a coma and never made it out. We had to send him back to Mexico in the same way. He came here with a lot of hopes and dreams and we ended up sending him back in a coffin," said Benitez.

Benitez said not a lot has changed since her uncle's accident.

"When I heard about Juventino it was emotional to hear about his death, to know that in 2018 these incidents are still happening, to know that there still isn't a greater concern, there isn't greater attention to detail for our workers," said Benitez.

City Councilman Braxton Winston, who also spoke during the news conference, said city leaders and companies need to take more steps toward ensuring workers' safety.

"One of the most important issues we are dealing with as a city is this lack of upward economic mobility, and at the center of that is workers' rights. The ability to work hard, get paid good wages, and come home to your family safe," said Winston.

Both Winston and Benitez said they hope the news conference will encourage authorities to thoroughly investigate the accident and help create safer work environments for construction workers throughout Charlotte.

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