April 1, 2008

Change to Win Testifies Before Congress on Dangerous Patterns of Abuse by Large Corporate Employers

Safety Expert and Poultry Worker to Address Failures of Large Corporations to Protect Health and Safety of Workers In the Workplace

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Change to Win Health and Safety coordinator Eric Frumin and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) member Doris Morrow will testify as witnesses at a Senate hearing tomorrow to address the dangerous pattern of large corporations ignoring or avoiding their obligations to insure a safe workplace. The testimony will focus on serious violations at BP, McWane Corp., Cintas Corp., House of Raeford, AgriProcessors, Waste Management Inc., and Avalon Bay.

“Employers bear the primary responsibility for protecting workers, but too often, companies would rather squeeze out extra profit than save employees’ lives,” said Frumin. “The price paid by fallen workers, their families and their communities is unacceptable, and without stronger laws and enforcement, the tragic human cost of hazardous jobs continues to climb.”

As evidence shows, large corporations make calculated decisions to cut corners and disregard the risk of injury or illness to their workers in order to maximize profits. As a result, every day, sixteen workers die on the job, 134 die from work-related illnesses, and thousands more sustain workplace injuries.

Tyson poultry worker and UFCW Local 227 member Doris Morrow, who has worked at the Tyson poultry plant in Kentucky for nearly 12 years, will testify about the health and safety problems she has witnessed first hand at her workplace. Tyson is one of the largest poultry processing companies in the United States.

“There are serious safety and health problems that must be addressed to protect workers across the country,” said Morrow. “I have seen first hand the injuries of my coworkers from respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia due to the cold temperatures in the plants, to back and muscular problems, sore hands, carpal tunnel and other Musculoskeletal Disorders that workers face. Yet, many of the workers in plants are afraid to complain about the work conditions because they are fearful they will lose their jobs. It is time to demand that the government and companies protect workers and prevent these injuries.”

The hearing will also address the failures of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate and remedy corporate-wide health and safety violations as a result of ineffective enforcement tools and inadequate resources. At present staffing levels, it would take OSHA 133 years to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction. It has also been hampered by political appointees who are indifferent or hostile to the agency’s mission, and hamstrung by limits on its legal authority and available enforcement tools.

“Under the current regulatory structure, corporations make the profits while workers pay the price with their lives. Congress needs to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to increase penalties for egregious violations and enhance OSHA’s capacity to conduct corporate-wide investigations and impose corporate-wide sanctions,” said Frumin. “America’s working families know all too well what will happen if we don’t strengthen OSHA – more workers will die because of exposure to well-documented hazards and slipshod site management, more workers will suffer crippling injuries from high production pressures and poor ergonomics and more companies will go unpunished even when knowingly putting workers in harm’s way. The time to act is now.”

The Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee hearing “Serious OSHA Violations: Strategies for Breaking Dangerous Problems” will be held Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430.

>>>Testimony of Doris Morrow


About Change to Win
Change to Win is a six million member partnership of seven unions founded in 2005 to represent workers in the industries and occupations of the 21st century economy. Change to Win committed to restoring the American Dream for a new generation of workers – wages that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and the opportunity for the future. The seven affiliated unions are: Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North AmericaUnited Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and United Farm Workers of America.