By Guest Contributor Yvonne Yen Liu, cross-posted from Colorlines
Juan Baten came to this country from Guatemala seven years ago in search of a better life. A bus in Cabral, Guatemala, hit his father so Baten left home at the age of 15, to make the journey north. He made his way to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he found work in a tortilla factory in an industrial corridor along the Brooklyn-Queens border. He worked six days a week, nine hours a day, from five in the evening until two in the morning, operating the machines that churned out tortillas. The $7.25 per hour he earned was sent back to his family in Guatemala, supporting his four brothers.
Baten also found love. Seven months ago, his common law wife Rosario Ramirez gave birth to daughter, Daisy Stefanie. They dreamed of a day when they could move their family back to Guatemala.
However, one Sunday, Baten’s arm got stuck in the blades of a dough-mixing machine and he was crushed to death. The 22-year-old dad’s story splashed across the pages of the New York tabloids, and his death led to investigations by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state Department of Labor. The Workers Compensation Board discovered that the factory owner was not offering worker’s compensation to his employees and issued a stop-work order. The factory is now closed, pending payment of insurance and fines by the owner, according to news reports.