About a month ago Mrs. Juniorprof and I decided to go just a bit greener by replacing our outdated house cooling unit with a top-of-the-line, super energy efficient, brand spanking new, air conditioning and duct system. Our house isn’t so big, so it didn’t require a ton of work, but several ceiling areas had to come down to put in those beautiful highly insulated ducts. The majority of the work has been done for about two weeks, but some leaks in the roof were discovered in the process so the ceilings have stayed down just to make sure that all the leaks were completely patched (its monsoon season here so its easy to discover if a leaky area has been corrected).
The dry-wall guy who is putting the ceilings back up came to do some work last night (around 7PM). This was actually supposed to happen about a week ago but the contractor (who is related to the dry-wall guy) informed me that Mr. Dry-Wall had fallen from a faulty scaffold at another (unrelated) job and that he had broken a few ribs. The injury had slowed him down but he was still working, I was told. This surprised me very much. I have also broken ribs before (playing football) and I can quite vividly remember not even wanting to breathe after that injury.
So, Mr. Dry-wall shows up at the door and he looks terrible. I met him before when he took the ceilings down and he then appeared to be a pretty happy middle aged dOOd. Not this time. I told him he really didn’t have to do this right now but he insisted that he needs the work so he wanted to get it done. Before starting we talked a bit about what had happened, all of this with the RNC on TV right behind us.
He told me how he is self-employed and gets most of his work on sub-contracts for bigger jobs. He wants to join a union but unionization of his line of work has never taken hold in this state. He has insurance but its shabby and he doesn’t have any worker’s compensation so even though he is badly injured right now he has to keep on going. He got hurt when a faulty scaffold collapsed and he fell about one story onto the base of the scaffold (exactly the sort of thing worker’s comp is supposed to cover). I can’t imagine how badly that would hurt! Interestingly, he took one look at the RNC on TV and said, “they don’t give a crap about me” and then asked me for some water. I gave him some gatorade instead. He took the gatorade, got the bottle of
percoset Percocet out of his pocket, popped a few pills and got to work.
We continued to chat while he was working. He was obviously in pain and I had work to do but I figured that if we continued to chat it might distract him from the pain just a bit. He showed me his back after a few more minutes. Completely black from the bruising. He went on to tell me that he makes decent money at this job but he needs to keep working all the time to make enough money to raise his daughters and pay for their schooling. I asked him something about having savings to take some time off and he said he couldn’t do that because the money put away was for his daughters’ future. After about 3 hrs he finished one part of the job and told me he would come back tomorrow evening to finish the rest. I wanted to tell him to just come back when he was better but I knew what he would say. The house was about 75 degrees while he was working. He was completely drenched in sweat. I would guess that most of that sweating was pain-induced.
How does this happen? Here you have a man who is trying to do the right thing, make an honest living and give a better future to his kids working with a severe injury just to keep his head above water. He wants to unionize, but cannot. He needs worker’s compensation insurance but doesn’t have it. He needs medical care but doesn’t have the time or money to get it. This is not right.