05/2006

Accidents and Injuries

Getting injured on the job -- either in the forest or in the van traveling to and from the forest -- is a part of life for pineros. Workers rarely receive any compensation for these injuries.

"[After I was injured on the job] I was very sick for 30 days, with 6 stitches on my wound. I never received any help from the company, even having to pay for my own medicine from my own pocket. All the while I had to keep paying rent on the hotel room where I was staying, even though I made no money. ... The only thing I received from the company was belittling, humiliation, mistreatment and bad pay." 

Leonel Hernandez-Lopez, H-2B forestry worker

"We were spraying, and I had to walk though the fallen trees. A branch that I stepped on broke. I fell backwards down about five meters and my leg ended up bent underneath me. The supervisor told me, 'Get up, get up,' so that I would continue working. When he saw I did not want to get up, he said, 'Don't be a stupid wimp,' so I had to keep spraying. My leg was swollen and I asked the crew leader to take me to the doctor. He told me... he didn't have time to be taking me to the doctor. Finally I went to the doctor on my own. I have thousands of dollars in medical bills and I have never received any money for the time I lost from work. This was more than a year ago and my leg still swells, hurts and I almost can't work." 

Jose Luis Macias, H-2B forestry worker

"What happens is the companies do not want to lose time. I cut my thumb while I was planting trees. I wrapped it up and worked two more days until I couldn't work anymore because of the pain. Seven days after the injury, they [the company] finally took me to the doctor because my thumb was infected. I was in the hospital for fourteen days and they told me they wanted to cut off my thumb because the infection was so bad." 

Enrique Napoleon Hernandez-Lopez, H-2B forestry worker

"In my sixth year of planting trees, I was poked in the eye with a branch while I planting with a shovel. This happened in January of 2005 and I am still suffering. I cannot see well. Everything is blurry. I cannot work. There was no help from the company. We are left to suffer while the company is making their money. I have the desire to return to work but I cannot because of what happened. To plant trees you suffer. The land plots are full of brush and thorns. There are places where you cannot get through. It is dangerous. If I had been wearing protective glasses that day, at best I would still be able to work today. Who knows where I would be now." 

Armenio Pablo-Calmo, H-2B forestry worker

"We were in a van accident on the way to work because the van was driving way too fast. Almost everyone in the van was hurt, some very badly. I had my seatbelt on, but there were not enough seatbelts for every person in the van. At the time, everyone else in the van was hurt so much worse than me so it did not seem to matter too much what had happened to me. But even now, more than a year later, I have a back ache, a head ache and I have a hard time working with my right hand because it hurts so bad. I am not sure I will ever be completely better." 

Maurilio Morales-Carrillo, H-2B forestry worker