Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming

Workplace safety issues are not going to be a major issue during the Presidential election campaign. Not gonna happen. But they can be an issue, especially for those who are concerned about workplace safety problems. Why not? As I said in my article in LaborBlog,
Clearly, there are other, more important "crimes" of the Bush administration to focus on -- the misguided war in Iraq, unemployment, tax cuts for the wealthy, lower living standards and the loss of pensions and overtime to name just a few.

But almost everyone who votes also goes to work, many in construction sites, factories, hospitals, highways, coal mines and offices that threaten their health -- and even their lives -- every day. The connection that workers need to make, (and that Democratic politicians fail to promote) is that their likelihood of coming home safe and sound after work is directly affected by what happens in the voting booth.
So what can be done to reach the people who might base their vote on where the candidates stand on health and safety.

One thing that can be done is to write letters to the editor. For example, Donna Spadaro, whose brother was killed in a workplace accident (see here and here) has succeeded in getting a number of letters published in small newspapers in Western Pennsylvania -- newspapers like the Oil City Derrick and the Meadville Tribune (newspapers so small that they don't even post their letter on line for bloggers to link to). After recounting the story of her brother's death, Donna gets down to business:
Throughout John Kerry?s 20 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has supported workplace safety and health legislation. Senators Kerry and John Edwards both support legislation for stronger penalties against employers who willfully violate safety laws.

I can never forget the terrible way my brother died. What is most painful is the inadequacy of the regulatory system which was supposed to protect him and the further harm that is being done to workers safety and health by the Bush administration.

I think of my brother every day and will do so especially on Election Day 2004.
And then we have this letter to the editor of the Valley Independent (in Pennsylvania) by Ryan Temoshenka:
George Bush reduced protections for mine workers and eliminated rules to protect workers from tuberculosis.

George Bush gutted health and safety protections in response to pressure from top donors and corporate lobbyists. For example, David Lauriski, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, removed protections for coal workers, that he originally sought when he was serving as an executive of a mining company. Chemical industry executives donated more than $1.5 million to Bush's 2000 campaign and were rewarded with looser regulations that boosted corporate profits but put pregnant workers at greater risk.
These letters won't be read my the masses, but they will be read by a number of interested people who live in the cities and towns that these papers reach -- and in these cases, in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania. Maybe they'll help a few people decide who to vote for.

6,000 workers were killed in workplace accidents in 2002 (far more Americans than were killed on 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan put together) and another 50,000 - 60,000 workers die each year from occupational disease caused by asbestos, pesticides, solvents and other chemicals. Imagine if just a small percentage of their relatives decided to write letters to the editor all over the country.

I just might have to eat my words about workplace safety not being a major campaign issue.