MassCOSH Demonstrates Outside Courthouse to Demand Justice for Deaths
Holding signs that read ‘Mourn for Kelvin and Robert, fight for the living!’ and “Safety before Profit”, thirty people attended a demonstration organized by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) this morning outside the Suffolk Superior Court arraignment of Atlantic Drain Services and its owner Kevin Otto. Otto and his company pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges in connection with a trench collapse that killed two of his employees.
"The families of Robert and Kelvin are devastated,” said MassCOSH Board Chair Elissa Cadillic. “But we are here in their honor to send a strong message to employers that if you do not protect your workers, you cannot do business in Massachusetts. Atlantic Drain must be held accountable, and we will work together to strengthen the state's penalties to deter other employers from putting workers' lives at risk."
Members of MassCOSH, the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 104, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA Local 201), Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, American Federation of Teachers, the Labor Guild, and National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, along with immigrant worker leaders and community supporters, demanded justice for Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins, the workers who drowned as a result of Atlantic Drain Services’ negligence. They chanted, ‘Atlantic Drain, pay the price for your workers' sacrifice!’ before filing into the courthouse.
Otto and his company plead not guilty to manslaughter and other charges in connection with a trench collapse that killed Mattocks and Higgins. Otto was released on personal recognizance after his attorney told the judge he had no money.
It's been 200 years since Massachusetts raised the maximum penalty a corporate entity can incur if convicted of manslaughter. Atlantic Drain Services may only be liable for $1,000 if it is convicted. Demonstrators ridiculed the insufficient fine and called for to be dramatically raised to reflect the true suffering family and co-workers go through when a worker is killed on the job due to negligence.
Representative Michelle DuBois, the state representative of Kelvin Mattocks, attended in support of the family and stronger worker safety measures for all Massachusetts residents.
“The real tragedy is nothing will bring these two men back, but we must demand justice in their name and for their families,” said DuBois. “The thought of dying in a 12-foot deep, 5-foot wide trench collapse is horrific, and the fact that if safety laws requiring the use of a trench box were followed these two men would still be here gets me very angry.”
Going forward, MassCOSH has pledged to support legislation filed by Senator Jennifer Flanagan that would increase penalties for employers convicted of manslaughter and similar crimes from $1,000 to $250,000, as well as increase provisions to debar employers for operating for up to 10 years.