even his elbow joint was worn smooth and flat
January 10, 2003 5:14 PM   Subscribe

mcwane incorporated
"It is said that only the desperate seek work at Tyler Pipe..."
the new york times has a 3 part (part 1, 2 and 3 u:dolface1/pwd:dolface1) special report on mcwane inc., a private company that is one of the largest manufacturers of cast iron sewer and water pipes in the world. it's a horror story right out of the early days of the industrial revolution; amputations, burns, death by crushing, disregard for the law and sheer indifference for human life that upset me more than anything i've read in quite a while.
osha seems unable to do much, what other options are available to workers when their companies won't protect them?
(warning: it's a long and sometimes unpleasant read)
posted by dolface (9 comments total)
unionize (from bb).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:19 PM on January 10, 2003

This fantastic series left me so sad. Causing a worker's death by willfully ignoring safety rules should be upgraded to a felony. Companies like McWane that have decided it's more profitable to put their workers at risk(McWane has had nine employees die on the job since 95) and just pay OSHA fines rather than have a safe workplace should have their charters revoked.
posted by spork at 5:42 PM on January 10, 2003

This was the topic of last night's Frontline. Really horrific.
posted by homunculus at 7:31 PM on January 10, 2003

This article set chills up my spine.

I was part of a management team who took over a company recently purchased by our parent company. This was a small-time, family-run School Bus company. In our state, School Bus drivers don't get unemployment over the summer so claiming workers' comp injuries iin the spring was something akin to sport during the family-run days. Simply, it was unemployment insurance by another name. It was also HUGELY expensive to the company due to high WC insurance premiums.

That had to end, of course. Our corporate masters brought in insurance company "Loss-Prevention Specialists" who lectured us on many of the tactics that McWane used against its employees. Documenting, case-building, assigning humiliating reduced-ability assignments (like holding down a chair for 8 hours a day--literally) and generally letting it be known that any workplace injury would be blamed on the injured were all techniques we learned and used. After all, the employee's primary goal as a person should be to get through the day uninjured, right?

The result of our endeavors? Higher than "normal" turn-over for a high turn-over job for about a year, 60 hour weeks for a year training replacements and pestering the problem cases, a few lingering nut-jobs who needed psychiatric care more than they needed any regular doctor's care, and a few looooong, drawn-out legal battles. One of which was still going after I left.

These techniques worked.

Unfortunately, I hated myself, my job and my life because of it. I ended up being laid-off myself after the company was again bought by a larger company. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Good riddance.
posted by tholt at 9:11 PM on January 10, 2003

I second what homunculus said. If you have a chance to catch a rerun of last night's Frontline, do so.
posted by mrbula at 9:57 PM on January 10, 2003

what other options are available to workers when their companies won't protect them?

posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:16 PM on January 10, 2003

In re: unionization-- as was made clear in the first installment, McWane managers are specifically trained to identify and punish union agitators up to and including termination.

In re: quitting-- as was made clear in the first and second parts, most of McWane's facilities (such as Tyler Pipe) are employers of last resort. People need jobs to feed themselves and thier children, and blindly asserting that they can simply quit if they don't like it is morally reprehensible. Additionally, McWane recruits prisoners (as was detailed in the first part), so there's a significant question of whether these workers even have the choice of quitting anyway.

In re: revoking the charter-- McWane is a privately held company, and has no state charter. They can't be punished in this way.

In short, RTFAs.

Welcome to the world of unrestrained capitalism, people. The conditions at McWane's plants are exactly the kinds of conditions that were the norm during the first hundred years of the Industrial Revolution, and it led to violent worker uprisings for union rights. If we continue down the current road of less and less government oversight, the conditions you see as unusual at McWane will become the norm once again. We will return to the age of the robber baron and the treatment of workers as discardable commodities, and all that implies.
posted by Cerebus at 12:19 PM on January 11, 2003

For those of you who get CBC Newsworld, the documentary will be airing again Sunday at 10am EST on "The Fifth Estate."
posted by stonerose at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2003

Texas is quite an unfriendly jurisdiction for defendants. I would guess that the trial lawyers will descend upon these workers. Tyler systematically discourages such claims before they are filed, but the national exposure will bring out more aggressive litigators. Usually the actual plaintiffs fail to make much on their claims. However, the expense of defending such claims frequently leads to changes by the defendants to reduce future claims. Trial lawyers get a bad rap; many rightly so through their greed and hubris. However, they promote an awful lot of valuable social change. Ever been saved by a seatbelt or an airbag? Thank a lawyer.
posted by caddis at 5:57 PM on January 11, 2003

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