California’s Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA didn’t protect workers from lead contamination at a battery recycling plant. A state Assembly member will hold hearings for a worker-protection bill based on our investigation.
“The safety conditions in the Dirty Dozen show we need more enforcement of our safety laws, not less,” says former OSHA official Jordan Barab. He describes proposed federal OSHA budget cuts under the Trump administration as “penny-wise and pound-foolish” for workers and taxpayers.
The day after undergoing complicated surgery for pancreatic cancer, a friend’s 76-year-old-husband became combative and aggressive while being cared for in an Intensive Care Unit. He stood up, tore out his IV and nasal gastric tubes, and pushed the nurse who had come to get him to lie down. Eventually he had to be tied down to his bed with hand and foot restraints because he was kicking and thrashing about – even kicking his wife in the stomach. Not the type of scene we expect in an ICU.
For nurses these days, however, it seems that assaults and acts of violence have become part of the job. According to Christy McConville of the United Nurses Associations of California, workplace assaults are now being captured on video and shared on social media, creating a new awareness of the problem.The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that violence against hospital workers is nearly five times greater than against average workers in all other employment categories combined – and it seems to be rising.
The virtual disappearance of work stoppages in America is hardly a sign of labor contentment but a reminder of how, in today’s hyper-stressed workplace, workers are afraid to protest when they believe their jobs hang in the balance. When a wildcat strike takes place, then, it’s safe to assume there must be powerful motivations behind it.
Baggage handlers working for Menzies Aviation at Los Angeles International Airport saw their 2012 walkout as a matter of life and death. At the time of their strike, three Menzies employees had been killed in California tarmac accidents, prompting workers to file complaints with Cal/OSHA about the workers’ lack of safety training and the company’s cavalier attitude towards faulty electrical equipment and the storage of fuel cylinders. The company took the bad PR and occasional fines in stride, however, and continued to conduct business as usual.
Then, this past February, a worker named Cesar Valenzuela was thrown from the luggage tug he had been driving and run over by the vehicle,
The horrific collapse of a Bangladeshi garment factory has sparked appropriate global outrage, with advocates, pundits and politicians calling for tougher laws to protect exploited workers in Third World countries. Yet this tragedy, like many before it, seems far removed from the reality of the American workplace.
It isn’t nearly as remote as we might think — a fact eerily underscored by the deadly fertilizer plant fire in Texas that preceded the Bangladeshi catastrophe.
While the surreal quality of the Texas disaster was somewhat unique, the deaths and injuries caused by it were not. Every year thousands of American workers die on the job, and hundreds of thousands are injured.
The reason? Lax worker safety laws, and weak enforcement of those that do exist. Another way of putting it is that we are letting men and women die simply by failing to afford them basic protections.
It was a gruesome factory accident —