The Tears of a Working Man’s Sister in Kearny: Edilberto Caicedo (1960-2019)

The tears of a sister.

Make the Road gathers to hear Janet Caicedo.
Make the Road gathers to hear Janet Caicedo.

KEARNY – If you’re illegal in this country, you can’t get an organ if you need one, but they will take your organ if you die, said Janet Caicedo, choking back tears in a parking lot outside the warehouse where her brother died.

“He told me, ‘If something happens to me, I want to be a donor,'” said Caicedo.

A forklift operator who worked for an unlicensed temp agency, Edilberto Caicedo died on the job on August 22nd. “Today, I recevied a letter saying four more lives were saved because of his organs,” said Janet Caicedo.

“He was so generous,” she added of her brother, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who Make the Road New Jersey activists say was exploited, like thousands of other undocumented workers, by companies making profit on the backs of people.

“We are here to demand that the State of New Jersey investigate temp agency hiring practices,” Janet Caicedo said. “We demand laws that protect the rights of temp workers. And we demand that CVS and American Eagle cut ties with T.I. Logistics.”

She made it through the speech with difficulty.

Moments earlier, they had filed out of the bus into the parking lot of the T.I. Logistics warehouse. She had tried to remain composed, but when someone asked her who the lead organizer was of this Make the Road New Jersey rally for justice, Janet Caicedo just gestured to the picture on a homemade sign.

It was a picture of her brother.

Edilberto Caicedo Zamora, age 58, of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Edilberto Caicedo Zamora, age 58, of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

“He was a handsome man,” she said.

He was a good brother, she said. He was tender. He was generous. He was a man who was always preoccupied with doing a good job.

He would arrive at work each day an hour early.

He wanted to be sure that when people arrived at the warehouse, he was ready to do a good job.

“He came here like all of us, searching for an opportunity,” said the sister of Edilberto Caicedo. He was a worker’s rights advocate, and a member of Make the Road New Jersey. He wanted to respect the laws of his new home.

But he wasn’t respected in return, his sister said.

Make the Road, New Jersey.
Make the Road, New Jersey.

According to his co-workers and attorney, Edilberto Caicedo’s skull was crushed on the job. He was left brain dead and ultimately died from his injuries.  He was a “perma-temp.” Hired as a temp worker more than a year ago, he stayed at T.I. Logistics as a temp for more than a year and had fewer benefits or protections than other workers employed directly by the company, according to Make the Road New Jersey’s Worker Organizaing and Policy Director Adil Syed Ahmed.

Temp jobs in New Jersey are notoriously unsafe and rife with exploitation.

Make the Road noted:

According to a 2018 fact sheet produced by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the number of U.S. workers in temporary help jobs has reached an all-time high: three million every week. In New Jersey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are approximately 127,000 workers employed by staffing agencies. Out of 142 distinct logistics facilities captured in a New Jersey survey of NELP, over half had workers employed through staffing agencies working at their sites. On average, agency workers made up more than half of the total workforce (61.4%) at these sites. Three-quarters were “perma-temps,” like Edilberto Caicedo, dispatched to the same employer every day.

United Steelworkers, New Labor, Workers United – Laundry, Distribution, and Food Service Joint Board, and other allies listened as an organizer grabbed the bullhorn in the warehouse parking lot on Monday night.

“What do we want?”

“Justice.”

“For who?”

The workers.

For Edilberto Caicedo.

The warehouse in Kearny where Edilberto Caicedo was fatally injured.

Janet waits to address the crowd in Kearny outside the warehouse where her brother died.
Janet waits to address the crowd in Kearny outside the warehouse where her brother died.
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