Asbestos contractors in Michigan are targeting homeless people and paying them “under the table” to remove asbestos-containing pipes without offering any protective gear or warning them about the dangers of the work. One of the contractors faced criminal charges last year after violating numerous federal and state laws.
The Detroit Free Press reports that in 2011, contractor Roy Bradley Sr. scouted out people at the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission in Bay City, and paid them cash to do dangerous pipe removal and renovation work at job sites that contained asbestos. The workers had no experience in handling asbestos and Bradley didn’t bother to offer them any protective gear. Many of the workers wore flips flops and t-shirts, and didn’t have a proper way to wet the asbestos and dispose of it.
As the workers removed the piping from one of the job sites, a church for a charter school, the ceiling began pouring down large amounts of asbestos, which resembled thick snow as it landed on and around the workers. Bradley was charged with a federal offense of improper asbestos abatement.
According to assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Parker, Bradley found “a convenient way of getting workers to do work that was very unpleasant, very difficult, very hazardous at times,” by paying them in cash. The workers, some which were addicted to drugs, were desperate for money, per Parker.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) investigated Bradley and cited his contracting company, Thunder Builders, for numerous violations, after a tip led them to Bay City. Yet, none of the violations included asbestos. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved, Bradley was indicted on four charges. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years in prison for “illegally distributing and handling asbestos, in violation of the Clean Air Act.” He was also found guilty of “conspiring to defraud the U.S.”
In a press release after the trial, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade stated that,
“Contractors who fail to comply with clean air laws can expect to face criminal prosecution as a consequence. Releasing asbestos poisons the air and harms human health.”
During Bradley’s trial, the workers, including Bradley’s brother-in-law, Roy Richard Jr., began speaking out. Richard said he took the job because he was facing prison time after a home invasion charge, and it was one of the few jobs he could obtain. In fact, most of the people who worked for Bradley had a criminal record and/or pending charges.
Matthew Scherret, another man who worked for Bradley, said he was homeless and jobless when he was offered a chance to work. While under oath during the trial, Scherret said that he was “living at the homeless shelter because I moved down here because my girlfriend was pregnant and he (Bradley) had an opening for a construction job. I went and got it.”
The workers were dispatched to several different job sites, and paid $50 per day. Most of them worked seven days a week. Scherret said that part of job included cutting insulation and pipes and throwing the remains away in a garbage bag. Federal law requires that asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of in air-tight container, with a clear label on the front, indicating that asbestos is inside. Federal law also requires that workers are to be thoroughly trained on how to handle asbestos prior to working around it, something that was never offered to the workers.
Other job duties for the workers included ripping up tiled flooring that contained asbestos, sawing pipes into smaller pieces without wetting down the asbestos-filled insulation, and removing a large ceiling with only a hammer.
Unfortunately, numerous contractors throughout Michigan and even throughout the nation are guilty of not following state and federal guidelines regarding asbestos. The end result is that workers are put at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses, such as asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.