Deaths on Small Farms and Modern-Day Slavery

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

Your job or you unborn child. Your job or your bladder. Your job or your life. These are the choices that far too many workers still have to make every day, in the 21st century, in the United States of America.

Just got back from vacation and lots of troubling stuff has been happening while I’ve been gone. I’ll write more about some of these things as time permits, but here’s a short summary.

Deaths in Small Farms: Eli Wolfe of Fair Warning has written a devastating piece, co-published in The Atlantic, about worker deaths on small farms and how Congress prohibits OSHA from investigating incidents on farms that comprise about 93 percent of U.S. farms with outside employees, employing more than 1.2 million workers. “By keeping the exemption, Congress is saying it ‘doesn’t really care whether workers get killed on small farms or not,’ said Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA during the Obama administration. ‘There’s no other way to interpret it.’”  Wolfe estimates that from 2011 through 2016—333 employees were killed in accidents on farms with 10 or fewer employees.

Modern Day Slavery: Just in time for the holidays a New York Times investigation explores the cost to workers of next day delivery from Amazon and other retail outlets. Workers handle thousands of items every day, quotas are increased and it’s output over everything — including worker health or safety — but they’re the only jobs around. A supervisor to a sick pregnant employer after a 12 hour work day: “What is this fucking pregnancy? You don’t need no more fucking kids. Get a fucking abortion!” She went home and had a miscarriage the next day. Five of her co-workers also miscarried. Doctors notes about not lifting heavy objectw were ignored. Try to read this with a dry eye.

Meanwhile, Somali workers at Amazon in Minnesota show the benefits of collective action.

Acosta in Big Trouble? The Miami Herald published a major investigative series on how former federal prosecutor (and current Secretary of Labor) Alexander Acosta cut a deal with a serial sexual predator,  granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” and cut short an FBI investigation.  Jeffrey Edward Epstein, a multimillionaire hedge fund manager, “was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.” Acosta is the rare Trump Cabinet Secretary who has managed to stay free of any allegations of corruption or abuse of power — so far…..

Living in fear: Poultry workers at Sanderson Farms in Texas are only allowed two short bathroom breaks a day without supervisor permission. And it’s a long way to the bathroom. It’s not just painful, but hat lack of bathroom access is a health risk. Pregnant women, the elderly, and people with medical conditions that cause them to urinate more often are particularly vulnerable. The lines move too quickly and there aren’t enough workers to fill in for workers who need a break. And as we’ve read here before, “in a recent move, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was allowing poultry processing plants that meet certain criteria to increase their line speed even further.”

Trenching Citation: Maryland OSHA has issued a large $275,000 citation, including several willful violations, against R.F. Warder Inc. for the trench-collapse death of 20-year old Kyle Raymond Hancock in a 15 to 18 foot deep trench last June. The fact that there were willful violations associated with a workplace fatality means that the state has the legal opportunity to pursue criminal charges. No word yet about whether the state will act on that. I wrote more about this tragedy here.

Exporting Poisons: After three studies, all paid for by US semiconductor manufacturers, showed that thousands of women workers suffered twice the rate of miscarriages after being exposed to chemicals, the industry a) stopped using the toxic chemicals in the US; b) moved production overseas, or c) reached confidential settlements with reproductive effect and cancer lawsuits. Answer: All of the above.  Bloomberg Businessweek show that thousands of women and their unborn children overseas continued to face potential exposure to the same toxins until at least 2015, and most likely to this day.  Formulations of toxic chemicals remain secret. Even the chip plants’ own health and safety managers have no idea what workers are being exposed to.

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Reposted from Confined Space

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work