Friday, December 12, 2003

Public Employees to Senator Graham: Go Forth and Agitate

From the Congressional Quarterly Mid-Day Update:
The Gainesville (Fla.) SUN reports that workers at Gainesville Regional Utilities' Deerhaven Generating Station discovered a new guy had joined their ranks Wednesday, as they used monstrous earth movers to shove around about 100,000 tons of coal for the plant's coal-fired system. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., showed up for one of his famous "workdays," which he began in 1978 before he was elected governor of Florida. This time, on his 394th workday, the paper said "Graham, 67, handled the mechanical contraption expertly -- much to the surprise of onlookers. 'I grew up on a farm where you got a lot of experience driving equipment,' Graham said." He said he intends to continue his workdays though he plans to retire from the Senate after next year.
The Sun also reported that Graham recently worked as a road construction worker on Interstate 4 in Orlando.
“Our basic infrastructure is getting old,” said Graham, who peered out from under a bright yellow hard hat that read “Bob.” He also wore jeans and a black canvas work shirt that had been delivered to his hotel the night before.

“We need a comprehensive program to help maintain the systems we already paid for,” he said.
Well, that's nice. I have a few suggestions for the Senator's next workday.


Senator Bob Graham
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Graham:

I was happy to hear about your latest "workday" at the Gainesville Regional Utilities' Deerhaven Generating Station. It's good to know that you're attempting to see what it's like to do the work that average Americans do every day. I was also happy to read that you understand that our nation's aging infrastructure is in dire need of maintenance.

I have a suggestion for your next workday. As you are undoubtedly aware, public employees in Florida aren't covered by OSHA (as they're not covered by federally approved OSHA programs in 25 other states). I'd like to suggest that you try out some average public employee jobs and let people know what it's like to work in hazardous situations where you have no legal assurance of a safe workplace.

For example, on your next workday, go down in a 12 foot deep trench that is not shored or sloped. Climb down into a manhole or other confined space that has not been monitored for hazardous chemicals or oxygen deficiency. Go work on a locked, understaffed, overcrowded mental health ward or maybe in a high security prison. Go drive around in some old city vehicles with defective brakes. Maybe you could bring a few Florida state legislators and Governor Bush with you.

Assuming you live through the experience and that you think that this nation's public employees don't deserve to work and die under such conditions, please consider spending whatever time you have left in the public eye fighting for OSHA protections for public employees. They do the jobs that this country demand to make life safe and enjoyable. Safe workplaces are the least they deserve.

Thank you and keep up the good work.


Jordan Barab