Worked Over

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For workers like Arek Tomaszewski, the state-controlled Workers’ Compensation Board, charged with enforcing the laws that help disabled and injured workers, has provided little more than frustrations and red tape.

In 1992, Tomaszewski was forced to quit his job as an asbestos remover after inhaling glue fumes in a poorly ventilated room–he developed asthma and a severe latex allergy as a result.

He filed for workers’ compensation almost immediately, but after 23 hearings at the WCB, he has yet to see any money for treatments or his living expenses.

“They look at you like, ‘Oh, you’re still alive. Let’s have another hearing,'” Tomaszewski says. “They can’t find the insurance that they should pay me for. It’s going nowhere. I see no improvements. It’s insane.”

Workers’ rights groups, which report a deluge of complaints like his, have formed a coalition that is launching a campaign against the board. The organizations, led by the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, plan to pressure the WCB with petitions, protests and possibly a lawsuit if claims are not resolved, says Betty Yu, project manager for the joint campaign.