PATH Labor Coalition demands justice for Robert Elijah, worker who died from COVID-19

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The PATH Labor Coalition is demanding justice for Robert Elijah, a worker who died from COVID-19, whose family filed a lawsuit alleging negligence from the Port Authority contributed to his passing.

Robert Elijah. Photo via blet497.org.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

A power rail mechanic for the PATH since 2001, Elijah was allegedly exposed to the coronavirus in the “C Yard” in Jersey City on March 15th, according to the suit, which was filed in Hudson County Superior Court last week.

The New York Daily News first reported on the litigation last night.

Within the next two, he was exposed to another co-worker who was infected with COVID-19, and again was not wearing a face mask due to established PATH protocols, resulting in Elijah becoming increasing ill beginning on April 3rd, the court filing states.

Over the next 20 days, Elijah experience “a horrible and protracted death” that included pneumonia, heart and kidney failure, and blood clots.

“Robert Elijah’s death is beyond tragic and his loving family deserves just compensation for their terrible loss, but it’s also part of a larger story of mistreatment of workers by the Port Authority for many years,” PATH Labor Coalition President Joseph Dominiczak said in a statement.

“We can’t bring Robert back, but the Port Authority can honor his memory by giving his family what they deserve and finally providing a fair contract to the union brothers and sisters Robert loved so much and who have gone without any raise in pay for nearly 10 years.”

Elijah, who was unable to receive visits from family members prior to his passing due to coronavirus safety precautions at hospitals, would still be here today if PATH management had done their job, according to his union rep, IBEW Local 864 President Dave Ortiz.

“His death could have easily been prevented by his employer taking simple steps to keep its workers safe. His tragic death should be a line in the sand moment for the Port Authority to stop treating us like we are disposable and start providing the living wages, benefits and basic safety protocols we need to take care of our families.”

The Port Authority declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

Recently, the PATH Labor Coalition had been battling with the Port Authority over a “clawback” policy that limited workers infected with COVID-19 to just 10 paid days off, but that was rescinded earlier this month.