Jose Herrera is an active father and a husband. He had a good job working as a pipefitter at the Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi. One morning, he was going about his normal routine repairing a poorly maintained pipe when it ruptured, scalding his face, neck, hands, and legs with crude oil heated to 550-degrees. Jose was harnessed to scaffolding and could not free himself while the oil scorched over a third of his body.
Today, Jose is confined to a wheelchair and is in excruciating pain. Because the law in Texas protects Citgo, Jose can no longer provide for his family and he faces a mountain of ongoing medical bills.
Jose decided he wanted to do something about this – not for himself – but for families who could face a similar fate. No father should be forced to look into his son’s eyes and tell him that he can no longer put food on the table. No father should be denied the opportunity to run and play with his son or even give him a hug without it being painful.
When legislation to ensure that refineries like Citgo are held accountable for failing to provide a safe place to work was brought before lawmakers, Jose knew he had to be there. With Texas Watch’s help, he wheeled into a legislative hearing room packed with powerful lobbyists in thousand-dollar suits and politicians sitting on a raised platform. Amid the physical and emotional pain, with the odds stacked against him, Jose told his story. He said that working men and women are not tools, they are human beings. When he spoke, you could hear a pin drop.
Jose Herrera – one man – showed the lobbyists and politicians that decisions made in the Capitol effect the lives of real people with real families. As his family helped push his wheelchair out of the room, the politicians’ political calculations and the lobbyists’ talking points left with him. He changed the debate from an abstract conversation about powerful lobby groups to what the law means for men and women like Jose Herrera.
Texas Watch is made up of thousands of Jose Herreras – people struggling to be heard. Our job is to give them a voice.
Recent safety lapses are not new and industrial accidents like Jose’s Citgo and Texas City’s BP that killed 15 have been become all too common. Texas Watch has been fighting for increased accountability and making sure the stories of men and women like Jose Herrera are heard — but we need you to do your job too. It takes resources to make sure Jose’s story is heard. Make a contribution today and tell Gov. Perry to support real workplace safety reforms.