Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day: The Heartwrenching Sequel

A couple of last items on Labor Day. As I've complained about time and time again, most of the Labor Day media tends to be about unions, the economy, income levels, unemployment statistics, politics -- anything and everything except for workers. One notable exception this year, as I've said, was the Throwaway Workers series in the Chicago Tribune (here and here).

But today, to amazing blog posts came across my screen that you'd probably enjoy reading (although "enjoy" may not be the right word.) The first, by Kathy Snyder of Mine Safety Watch tells the heartwrenching story of Corporal Ayron Kull, a Marine who survived two tours in Iraq, only to return home where he was killed on the job at a local sand and gravel operation. The crusher where he was working had no machine guard.

As Kathy writes:
More than 5,000 Americans die on the job annually. Ayron Kull’s story is especially poignant in that he survived a war only to lose his life in earning a livelihood. On this Labor Day, after the hot dogs and apple pie and the 1938 recording of Kate Smith singing "The Star Spangled Banner" so clear and true and straight from the heart, it seems right to take a moment to remember Corporal Kull and the others like him.
The second item that found its way into my Confined Space comment box today. It’s from Maya’s Granny and tells the story of her father’s death in 1948 and the difference unions have made in the work place. Her father had stepped on a rusty nail and was given an out-of-date tetanus booster by the company doc in the company (Bethlehem Steel) town. He went to work sick and died there of tetanus, although the company tried to pass it off as "natural causes" — a cerebral hemorrhage:
When people hear this story, they can’t understand why on earth a man who was that sick would get up and try to go to work. Or how a company could own a town, control a physician in private practice. And the reason that they can’t understand it is labor unions. It is because of labor unions that when you and I are sick, we can stay home and our families don’t have to make due without that day’s income. In 1948 people didn’t get "paid for not working". There were no sick days. There was no health insurance. There was only the simple, stark reality of a day’s pay for a day’s work. It is only because of labor unions that towns in the United States are rarely owned so openly by corporations these days.
That’s how it was when Maya’s Granny was young. That’s how it still is for immigrant workers today. And that’s how it may be for the rest of us if labor unions die out in this country. Something to think about this Labor Day