Random (but not really)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day in the United States exists to celebrate the rights that workers in the United States have achieved in the past century, and to give us time to allow those who keep the power on and the trains running and all those other jobs that require you to get your hands dirty, a day to be recognized for their work.

We must remember the past, and some of the incidents that made labor unions so critical, and continue to make them important today.

Health and safety have improved vastly across the board in the past century. We hope never to have another incident like The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, where 146 men, women and girls died when the exits were barred and a fire broke out.

However, some industries seem hardly to have changed in the past century. Farmworkers struggle to live on less money than most Americans make in a year.

The median personal income from farm work and other work sources combined was between $5,000 and $7,500.

And the modern meatpacking industry seems in some ways hardly to have moved beyond conditions described by Upton Sinclair in “The Jungle.”

the reported injury and illness rate for meatpacking was a staggering 20 per hundred full-time workers in 2001

…OSHA administrators and independent researchers have found a common corporate practice [in the meatpacking industry] of underreporting injuries of all kinds. One recent estimate puts the undercount of nonfatal occupational injuries across industrial sectors as high as 69 percent.

And then there is the industry of my home state, the coal industry. From the Mine Wars in the US of over a century ago, to modern mine disasters, such as the Upper Big Branch Mine and the Sago Mine men die while trying to make a living digging coal.

[Massey Energy] amassed more than 1,100 violations in the past three years, many of them serious. Federal regulators even ordered parts of the mine closed 60 times over the past year.

two Massey Energy Co. officials who spent four unsupervised hours underground immediately after the deadly April 5 explosion.

[Coal companies including ICG and Massey Energy] …hope to use newly loosened campaign-finance laws to pool their money and defeat Democratic congressional candidates they consider “anti-coal,” …” they want to “”create a politically active nonprofit under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, so they won’t have to publicly disclose their activities — such as advertising — until they file a tax return next year…

Today is the day to remember those who have lost their lives and their health doing nothing more than trying to make living.

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