Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reflections on Labor Day

I really don't like holidays too much; they get you out of your rythmn of eat/sleep/work/repeat by throwing an odd day of "rest" into the schedule. So, not only are you not supposed to "work", but neither is anyone else, and therefore you can do little but sit at home and watch the grass grow, paint dry, or some other useless activity.

However, I was able to beat this holiday's blues by laboring on Labor Day. Yep, instead of taking time off to go drink beer at a BBQ grill, I sat in a tractor and disked ground for preparation for seeding to pasture most of the day. The A/C wasn't even working properly, so it was even more labor.

However, by the end of the day, and through my usual self-entertainment of surfing Wikipedia, I came to realize that yes, the Labor movement in this country did have some good points, and working conditions, as well as safety standards, would be a lot worse if some people didn't band together, walk out and say we're not going to take this anymore.

Being a dog-gone independent farmer, it's tough for me to understand why anyone would throw his or her livelyhood together with complete strangers to increase their chances of betterment when I can have about the same chances on my own with out paying dues. Same goes with safety standards - you learn very quickly around the farm to not stick your hand in certain places, so why do we need a federal office to get in the way of productivity?

But, when I read about the struggles that some went through, either in labor or safety violations, injuries, and deaths, I realize that sometimes intervention from within or above is necessary for the whole operation to keep moving forward.

Hamlet Chicken Processing Fire - 25 people were killed and 54 injured when a hydraulic line ruptured, creating a fire that swept through an older plant. Doors and windows are locked to ward off theft, but they don't allow workers to escape properly.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - 146 workers, mostly women and girls, were burned or jumped to their deaths because doors were locked and fire escapes were few and incapable of handling the crowd.

Radium Girls - US Radium Corporation used women to paint radium onto faces of watches, providing no protective covering, while the owners and chemists are careful not to come in contact with the material. The women are not warned of the radioactivity of the material, and the company used disinformation to keep radium poisioning from being discovered.

Love Canal - Local school district built an elementary school on a former toxic waste dump. Children have higher levels of maladies than normal, but the school district and chemical company claim nothing is wrong.

Because of gross mismanagement and opportunism on the company's part, workers and community members came together to fight their injustice. In many cases they were told to sit down, stop rocking the boat, or you'll get fired, kicked out, loose your school, etc.

Sometimes accidents happen, but responsibility should be taken for them immediately; this is basic stuff my 4 year old is being taught in pre-school and at home. But, when corporations don't take responsibility for their messes, their short-sightedness, their purposeful ignorance, and people are hurt or killed, the companies need to pay.

I don't like regulations any more than the next person; I am a big believer in common sense and personal responsibility. But when common sense is lacking, and personal responsibility is not found, we need a higher authority, the government, to step in. That's why departments like the EPA, FDA, OSHA, National Labor Relations Board, etc were created. That's why groups like the AFL-CIO were originally created as well - to put right what has been made wrong.

We may not agree with how these groups go about their work; I think some of the things OSHA does are very intrusive into a workplace. But, they do play their part, and overall, they do make things safer and better for workers, employees, and customers. Yes, there is more bureaucratic BS and hoops to jump through, sometimes more than what we are comfortable with.

But, if groups like these had not come along, we might still be plucking chickens with our hands for pennies a day and worrying if we'll fall asleep and tumble into the lard tank.


Blogger Stephen R. Maloney said...

"Even if we lose elections we should not lose our honor. And that is more important than the Republican party." -- Mike Huckabee

A long-time and seemingly committed Blogger for Huckabee has withdrawn his support for Mike. That is his right, but I believe he's making statements about Mike -- and, frankly, about me -- that are misleading (to say the least). I devoted my column today to the subject, and I want all backers of Mike (and of Mike heading a ticket with Gov. Sarah Palin in the second spot) to know that I have the highest regard for Gov. Huckabee. Thanks.

steve maloney

3:11 PM, September 06, 2007  

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