Construction is a dangerous industry. Nearly one thousand construction workers lose their lives each year in workplace injuries. That’s why for ten years Father Patrick Jordan (chaplain to the New York building trades, and a Catholic Labor Network member) has celebrated an annual Memorial Mass for a congregation of construction workers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This year Fr. Jordan explained the service and reflected on this grim landmark in a guest submission to the New York Daily News.
Thursday marks the 10th Anniversary Memorial Mass for Deceased Construction Workers, better known as the Annual Hardhat Mass. At this mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, over which I will preside, all those killed on a construction site in New York City are remembered and revered — whether they be union or nonunion workers.
Chairs are placed in the upper sanctuary of the Cathedral with an engraved hardhat and a rose to signify each of the deceased workers who died from April 28 of the previous year till April 28 of the current year. At the end of the mass, the hardhat and the rose are given to the family members of each of the deceased workers.
This year, 19 chairs will be placed in the upper sanctuary of St. Patrick’s Cathedral…. Construction workers have one of the highest death and injury rates in the private sector throughout the entire United States. Yet the safety crisis they face rarely gets much attention.
I think I know why. The construction decedents are disproportionately likely to be immigrants and low-wage workers. With little economic leverage or protections, they are forced to take the most dangerous jobs. These workers seldom receive safety training as required by both New York state and federal law. Most of the nonunion workers were undocumented Latinos with little or no safety training. At the mass, all the deceased are remembered regardless of their status. We emphasize the dignity of each human person in the construction industry of New York City….
I hope and pray that the implementation of recent City Council legislation will help make all nonunion workers safer. I also hope and pray that this necessary measure will reduce injuries and deaths in the New York City construction industry. I prefer to see fewer chairs in the sanctuary of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in next year’s Annual Hardhat Mass.
Those who risk their lives to build this city deserve to know that the law — and our elected leaders — are working to keep them safe.
To read “A solemn prayer for safety in construction” in its entirety, CLICK HERE