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'Why Are We Here?' Construction Industry Keeps Working With Mixed Emotions

Eve Zuckoff
Paul, a construction worker from Fall river, continues to work on March 25.

Nearly 7 million Massachusetts residents have been advised to stay home, but that doesn’t apply to those who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and projects.

Paul, a construction laborer in Hyannis, didn’t want to use his last name for fear of retribution, but said the company he works for employs around 100 people who repair roads and maintains sewers. That means he and his partner still have to go to work. 


“But something like me and him, we do curb and sidewalk,” he said. “What does that have to do with being essential? That’s our gripe. Why are we here?”  


On Monday, the stated released a nine-page list of businesses considered essential. The list includes grocery stores, pharmacies, and health care providers, among others.

But, according to a press release, even “non-essential” businesses and services are “encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises.”

Paul, who said he feared the consequences of speaking out, said he wishes his bosses would prioritize social distancing and the safety of workers over productivity.

“It’s tough to say we want to stay home because you say it and, you know, it jeopardizes your job,” he said. “[But] my wife doesn’t have a spleen. My daughter has asthma, so yeah, I’m really worried about this.”

Other “essential” workers said they were just happy to keep bringing home a paycheck.

Sean Callagy, a landscaper for Greener Image Landscaping, said he’s glad to keep making money for his family, especially his young daughter. Also, he added, continued development and landscaping in the community could play role in helping the local economy.

“It’s important for it to look good because it makes people happy, I think,” he said. “And people driving by… clean establishment like this… they might go to the pizza guy. You know?”

His crew is still taking precautions against COVID-19, he said. Everyone’s there on a volunteer basis and each worker is driving his own truck.