America's dangerous employers
April 28, 2006 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Workplace health and safety dirty dozen (pdf) - profiles of companies that have demonstrated egregious disregard for worker safety. Today is Worker Memorial Day, commemorating workers who die on the job - an average of 16 per day. Workplace deaths are trending up, not down, which, according to an extensive report by the AFL-CIO, is the inevitable Toll of Neglect with this administration's rollback of worker protections. Confined Space offers a daily view of work safety issues in the U.S. for those who would like to learn more.
posted by madamjujujive (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The government is actually doing something about one of these companies: U.S. files criminal charges against W.Va. mine's owner.
posted by octothorpe at 6:51 AM on April 28, 2006

This has recently hit the news in Australia, not beyond time too. The stories are pretty disgusting with regard to youth workers especially. There has been talk about having a shame website of those companies that are negligent.
posted by tellurian at 7:12 AM on April 28, 2006

Hey, Wal-Mart's on it. I'm shocked, I am. Really.

Not really.
posted by graymouser at 7:24 AM on April 28, 2006

Thanks for the link, octothorpe - that's good to hear. I favor criminal penalties including jail for owners/managers of companies that are serial killers, particularly when there have been multiple violations of industry safety standards. Fines are usually just slaps on the wrist.

You make a good point, tellurian - young workers are among the most vulnerable in the workplace. They are green, they aren't work-hardened, they have that sense of inviolability all kids have, and they may be trying to prove themselves, or be too non-assertive or *too cool* to ask for help or speak up.

Immigrant workers/non-english speakers are also at high risk. AP issued a report about the exceptionally high rate of deaths among Mexican workers. Hispanic men have the greatest overall relative risk of fatal occupational injury of any gender or race/ethnicity group - 22 percent higher than the relative risk for all men.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:55 AM on April 28, 2006

Wal-Mart is the toast of Wallstreet, so that means Congress loves Wal-Mart since Wallstreet owns Congress. Corporations around the globe are emulating Walmart's policies and procedures as the new success model.

My sister bought a birthday gift for my son at Wal-Mart last week. I refused it and began to chastise her about shopping at Wal-Mart - about their labor practices and the effect their success has on their competitors and vendors. She told me there was nowhere else she can shop. She lives in Central Jersey, she has plenty of alternatives, but I know what she meant, that there was no one else who sells it as cheap.

This is a race to the bottom that will erase the middle class in this country - again. Wal-Mart will be the corporation that will usher in the new feudalism in America.
posted by any major dude at 8:06 AM on April 28, 2006

any major dude:

The thing people don't realize is that the labor regulations we have in this country aren't for the most part the result of government bureaucrats sitting around and thinking up regulations; they were fought for and won in the early U.S. labor movement. The 8-hour day, the weekend, the minimum wage, the end of child labor, the NLRA, safety standards, almost any labor advantage you can think of was won by nothing but labor militance. Unless we have a resurgent militant labor movement that will make last year's TWU strike in New York seem completely normal, the corporations will take every single victory back.
posted by graymouser at 8:55 AM on April 28, 2006

The total number of people employed in this country has been rising for years. In the last 30 years this country has created 25 million new jobs.

Wouldn't you tend to think that any statistic related to employment given in absolute numbers would also tend to rise with time?

The real question is whether the number of deaths per million workers has risen -- and it hasn't. It's been falling, according to the AFL-CIO's own statistics.

In fact, the absolute number of deaths has also been trending down, not up, except for 2004:

1991: 9900
1992: 6217
1993: 6331
1994: 6632
1995: 6275
1996: 6202
1997: 6238
1998: 6055
1999: 6054
2000: 5920
2001: 5915
2002: 5534
2003: 5575
2004: 5703

Whether the 2004 number is simply statistical jitter or actually a turn around is something we'd have to wait to see, but it's much more likely to be jitter.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:12 AM on April 28, 2006

Steven C. Den Beste:

The Spanish-speaking population of the US has doubled in the last 15 or so years. Given that, a, a number of Hispanic workers are undocumented immigrants, and b, these workers are usually employed in relatively dangerous jobs, it seems highly possible that the numbers would be skewed by underreporting and misreporting of deaths involving undocumented immigrant workers. Is this taken into account in any way in these statistics?
posted by graymouser at 9:20 AM on April 28, 2006

graymouser, you are correct. Congress have never been leaders, they have always cowardly followed the people after blood has been shed. The problem is our politicans are able to implement the will of their corporate benefactors without recrimination due to the fact that the public is barraged by corporate PR from corporate owned news stations. Do you see what Pataki and Bloomberg and the courts are doing to the TWU? The put their leader in jail for 10 days, took away their ability to automatically deduct dues and fined them millions of dollars. You can't find more than a dozen NYers that are outraged by this action or can even understand what this means because there is no one on tv explaining to them that this show of force by corporate-owned politicians is meant to strike fear in the hearts of the next union that decides they are giving up crucial benefits. No one gives a shit anymore. Our we've all become fat and have no idea what it was like before these processess were put in place.

The world never progresses does it? Just goes round in a circle.
posted by any major dude at 9:21 AM on April 28, 2006

You're right, greymouser and AMD, the world never changes and people tend to act in their own self-interest, meaning they act to increase their wealth, status, and self-importance. The real tragedy is that the people who figure out early enough that the world never changes are the ones who take advantage of it to advance their self-interest, knowing that they'll always have a lead on the protestors and considerate people.

Why is it that new ways of achieving the goals of the self-interested continue to be developed, but new ways of ensuring that one powerful person's self-interested goals don't trample over less powerful people are not being developed.

Could it be that there are simply more and smarter selfish people than there are compassionate people?

If so, what are you guys going to do about it in the short span of your existence, given that we've already established that nothing ever changes so your efforts are by definition, futile. Personally, I think posting on Metafilter is a great start. ;-)
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:23 AM on April 28, 2006

The number of fatalities for 2004 was revised up by the DOL, adding 61 deaths for a total of 5,764. In terms of raw numbers, 2002 was the lowpoint and there have been two years of increases since then. But you are correct that these numbers aren't the best measure, Steven Den Beste - DOL's fatality rate measures by deaths per 100,000 workers. Indeed, 2004 was the first year since 1994 that the fatality rate increased.

You may be correct that these recent numbers will prove to be trend jitter, it would be great if tht proves true. Having some familiarity with workers comp, it doesn't "feel" that way though. While the raw number of injuries - or frequency - has been steadily declining for a number of years, the severity of injuries has been increasing (severity being a measure of cost.) On this issue, I sincerely hope that I am proved wrong in my pessimism and you are proved right.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:45 AM on April 28, 2006

Mr. Gunn:

I believe in the power of one. I believe every change I make in my life affects thousands over the long term. We don't need drastic changes to make progress. I believe humans are moved by shame much more than they are moved by laws. We don't need the Bolshevik revolution, we need small incremental change. I read somewhere that a raise of 5 cents per hour in some of these 3rd world country corporate sweat shops can take someone from poverty to middle class. That's all it takes. I believe this conservative movement is beginning to break the will and people are we are just giving up. It's then that the "Company Store" will reappear. Isn't that the goal of Wal-Mart? Doesn't it have to be? Wouldn't total success be for Wal-Mart to have the only store in town and all their workers to be paid in scrip that can only be redeemed at Wal-Mart? Then worker will inevitably run into dept and become de-facto indetured servants? Isn't this nighmare coming closer and closer to reality?
posted by any major dude at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2006

You're right, AMD, but the tragic thing is that all kinds of people who believe in themselves have figured this out, long ago, yet nothing ever changes. So the question is, "Are people who care about the 'common good' less able to apply the things they've figured out - are they stupider - or are we in a cycle where people figure it out, realize nothing can be done, and forget about it, requiring the next generation to figure it out all over again?"

Could it be that the tendency of people who prefer order and organization is to work either in their self-interest or what they've been told their self-interest should be, leaving only people who are averse to order and organization as a disorganized mass of individually dissenting opinions to the order and organization's party line?

Doesn't this mean that any attempt to change the prevailing order comes from a ararchistic mass, unable to really move forward in any direction because its members are all too busy figuing things out for themselves individually to reach any kind of consensus?

Nothing ever changes because anti-party line opposition is always diluted. It's always going to be Romans vs. the People's Front of Judea, the Judeans People's Front, the Popular Front of see where I'm going.

People, just wanting to have a not so unpleasant time of it as they go through life, don't struggle against the way things are in any numbers unless it is a huge polarizing factor.

So you go on with your "power of one" butterfly effect stuff. Society needs people like you. Just don't forget that life is short and try to have a good time while you can, too. If you're so inspired, create permanent beautiful things that can accumulate and change the landscape for the better.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:24 PM on April 28, 2006

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