After months of fighting to be protected under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, undocumented Latino Ground Zero workers from Queens finally got what they wanted.
For the several Latino clean-up workers who were left out of the $713 million settlement following a lawsuit against the city over exposure to World Trade Center dust, the legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama would allow them to qualify for health benefits and compensation payments. Many of them are now suffering from health issues like asthma, laryngitis, sleep disorders and cancer.
“It was a great achievement,” said Oscar Paredes, director of the non-profit organization the Latin American Workers Project, Inc. (LAWP) based in Jackson Heights. “People are very happy.”
Paredes leads a group of documented and undocumented Latino clean-up workers who meet weekly at the organization’s office. In a recent meeting, workers told him lawyers have already started contacting the workers in hopes to represent them and get the 10 percent cut offered under the legislation. Many, he said, are signing contracts with lawyers because they are afraid they won’t get anything otherwise.
“Everyone wants the business,” Paredes said. “They are even intimidating people.”