Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay

An article written in response to recent flooding, "Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay",  made me think about my brother-in-law, Brian Collins, who was killed the day before his 23rd birthday in 1990 because he went to work during emergency conditions.

On December 27, 1990 there was a major winter storm that pretty much shut down the St. Louis area. The police and other officials explained that conditions were extremely dangerous and urged people to not drive and stay at home. There was a call over the radio and television, however, for hospital and other emergency workers to find a way to make it to work, because they were needed.

I had just married my wife in June 1990 and I was visiting my mother-in-law's home when my brother-in-law asked for a ride to work. I explained that the road conditions were terrible and that I had barely made it there and how I wasn't planning on leaving to go home until the storm let up.

He mentioned that he heard the call for hospital workers to try to make it to work. I tried to convince him not to go and explained that they were talking about doctors, nurses and other critical hospital personnel. He replied that he might be needed and decided to go to work.  He reasoned that support staff was just as critical to hospital operations as doctors and nurses.

He caught the bus to work, but I told him if the storm let up, I would pick him up when he got off. Later that night, my sister-in-law phone my mother-in-law. The hospital called because Brian had been shot and they wanted family members at the hospital.

I drove my wife and mother-in-law to the hospital and road conditions were still pretty bad. When we arrived, my sister-in-law and her husband were already there. My sister-in-law was in tears and stated that I think he's dead, because they won't let us see him.

A few minutes later, someone came and explained that Brian had been shot in the back of his head, had died and asked my mother-in-law if she would be willing to donate his organs.  Needless to say, we were all devastated. Brian was kept on life support to keep his organs viable and my mother-in-law after a brief family discussion agreed to organ donation.

My brother-in-law, Brian Collins had been a minister from a very young age and worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He had previously been a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital, however, Brian viewed himself as working for a different department for the same employer since Mallinckrodt was a part of Barnes. However, when it came to Brian's insurance coverage, Mallincrodt and Barnes didn't see it that way.

Mallincrodt said since he was a new employee, even though he had completed all of his required insurance paperwork to properly transfer his insurance coverage. He had not been with Mallincrodt long enough for his life insurance to pay out. Even though he had been at Barnes long enough, Barnes said since he now worked for Mallincrodt, he no longer was covered by Barnes.

I couldn't believe that Barnes and Mallincrodt were standing on a technicality for an employee who answered an emergency call to action.

I felt guilty about Brian's death for a long time. I should have made a stronger argument for him to stay home. I should have taken him to work that day. Did he not call me and catch the bus because he didn't want to bother me? Did he think I wouldn't pick him up? Those and many other thoughts haunted me for years.

I loved Brian as my own brother and the world was robbed of a magnificent human being and humanitarian and future pastor. My oldest son's middle name is Brian and ironically, he is a young minister.

So when I came across the article arguing for disaster pay for low-income employees, I couldn't agree more. The article specifically mentioned health care workers,  "who are often considered essential employees and who may be required to stay and work extra shifts during a disaster."

Because Barnes and Mallincrodt wouldn't honor Brian's insurance, my mother-in-law had to rely on donations to bury her youngest son and the family's suffering was increased because of their actions.

When a person risks their life to help or protect others, they should not be abandoned or forced to bear additional burdens on their own.

Post Dispatch Article, December 29, 1990

Man Fatally Shot On Way Home From Work; Motive Unknown

By Kim Bell ; and Margaret Gillerman

Police had no suspects or motive Friday in the fatal shooting of a man walking home from work Thursday night.

Brian Collins , who would have been 23 years old Friday, was shot in the back of the head and in the neck about 9 p.m. His body was found in a vacant lot on Lillian Avenue about six blocks from his home.

''He had his Walkman tape in his ear, so when they shot him, I don't think he heard a thing,'' said his mother, Ruby Collins. Lt. Steve Jacobsmeyer said Collins ''could have been a victim in a street robbery.''

Collins had worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He previously was a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital.
''He was a good kid,'' Jacobsmeyer said.

Relatives believe Collins had taken a bus from work to Lillian and Kingshighway, then decided to walk the rest of the way instead of waiting in the snow for another bus. ''Lillian is a drug-infested area, and I told him to be careful: 'You should not walk home,' ''
Ruby Collins said. ''I always told him to call if he needed a ride.''

Relatives said that Collins almost had stayed home from work Thursday because of the bad weather. He changed his mind when he heard an announcement on television urging hospital workers to try to make it in.

''Everybody at Barnes his former employer loved my son,'' his mother said. ''They said he was so joyful and kept a smile on his face.''

The funeral for Collins will be at 7 p.m. Sunday at New Jerusalem Temple Church of God, 8204 Page Avenue in Vinita Park. Collins was a volunteer minister at the church.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInDigg thisShare on Google+Email this to someone