Some workers receive more respect than others. When some workers die in the line of duty, they are lauded with many displays of respect. When police officers have been shot there often are elaborate memorial services; they are called “Hero,” and frequently long parades of other law enforcement personnel demonstrate their respect. They may even have public buildings named in their honor.
For other workers, there is a different kind of discrimination that plays out when they die. There is the failure on the part of society as a whole to pay any attention to their plight. In many states, low-pay workers, like roofers, are often exposed to tremendous risk, safety regulation of their work is often lax, and when they die, the news, if there is any, is unlikely to make it a leading news story on the local TV stations. If it appears in a paper, it is relegated to a back section.
The other kind of discrimination they face is that their work is considered so low value that the company finds it unnecessary to bother with properly following safety rules, implementing safety plans and procedures or adequately training employees.
A horrendous story made the news this week, not because of the worker’s death, as that happened back in 2012, but because criminal charges were filed against two of the supervisors in the plant.
The worker was killed in a pressure cooker used to cook canned tuna at a Bumble Bee processing plant. The man was cleaning the inside of a 35-foot oven, when another worker sealed the pressure cooker and proceeded to cook the man and the tuna at 270 degrees while they fruitlessly searched the plant, looking for the missing worker.
The plant operations director and safety manager were charged with three counts of willfully violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations that led to the man’s death.
Criminal charges are exceedingly rare in workplace safety cases. It is unfortunate that it is not because employee deaths due to such indifference are equally rare.
Source: usatoday.com, “Bumble Bee Foods charged after man cooked with tuna,” Associated Press, April 28, 2015