Where’s the “Dignity of Work” When Work Kills Workers?

Corporate acolytes and right-wing moralists constantly preach to laboring stiffs about the uplifting dignity of work.

Of course, that’s “dignity” as defined and controlled by corporate elites, not by workers, and the reward for it frequently includes on-the-job injuries… and death. Not that CEOs and well-heeled investors intend to sicken, maim, and kill thousands of laborers every year – but they certainly do put them in positions that assure such unhappy results. For example, they demand that farmworkers go sunrise to sunset picking crops in California’s 105° desert heat, and that construction crews toil in the muggy, dog days of Florida summers tarring condo roofs. Low-paid, powerless workers die, but no one in the corporate hierarchy did the deed, right? Heat was the killer.

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But wait, not only are aloof, air-cooled bosses the ones who knowingly subject subordinates to deadly heat, but they’re also the ones who hire squads of lobbyists and lawyers to kill simple, inexpensive rules to stop these deaths – such rules as requiring  ample water at work sites; ensuring paid rest breaks in cool spaces; training on-site managers and employees to detect and react to signs of heat stress; requiring good ventilation and proper clothing; establishing emergency response procedures; fostering a safety-first culture; and imposing serious punishments for violators.

Such sensible steps have repeatedly been proposed as official workplace policy for at least the last 50 years – but intense industry lobbying has killed the adoption of all attempts to prevent what amounts to workplace murder by corporate profiteers. Instead, the US government pretends to “protect” workers by printing posters admonishing employees to beware of heat, basically telling them, “Goodbye and Good Luck.”

But at last, a real proposal has been put on the table by more than 110 grassroots groups. See it – and join it – by contacting Public Citizen: Citizen.org.

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