Ed Schultz talks to the President of the United Steelworkers Leo Gerard about his recent op-ed Wrongful Fatalities, Failed Worker Protections:
In both cases – the five fatalities in a Washington oil refinery April 2 and the 29 deaths in a West Virginia coal mine the following Monday – news reports described the explosions that killed workers as industrial “accidents.”
When an explosion occurs at a refinery or mine that has been repeatedly fined for heath and safety violations, one question that ought to be asked is just how unexpected was the event.
Answering this question is essential because: less time plus less money spent on safety measures equals more profit for owners. America must introduce new factors into that computation to protect the lives and limbs of workers who produce the energy on which this country depends. One factor is larger safety violation penalties – fines and shutdowns costly enough to outstrip profitability. And when corporations consider fines just another cost of doing business, another crucial factor is the ability to charge CEOs with criminal negligence when their corporations flagrantly violate safety regulations – an ability that other countries have written into law.
Woody Guthrie wrote the song, “The Dying Miner” after the Centralia explosion, including these lyrics:
"I can hear the moans and groans,
More than a hundred good men.
Just work and fight and try to see,
That this never happens again."
More than a half century later, the protections and enforcement for miners, steelworkers, refinery workers, paper workers and others remain inadequate. The proof is that the explosions and deaths continue to occur over and over again.
The slaughter must stop now. Workers go to jobs to earn their daily bread. They don’t go to die.