Oh hush. It’s still Labor Day somewhere.
In honor of Labor Day I’d like to point out that workplace safety issues disproportionately affect men. In America, men are more likely than women to be injured or killed on the job. Here is an excellent roundup of American reporting on neglected workplace safety issues (both those which disproportionately affect men and those– like nursing– which disproportionately affect women) from FedEx to Hershey’s chocolate, from poultry plants to construction sites.
The biggest problem is OSHA, which is under scrutiny in multiple investigations from stalled toxic-chemical standards to a subsidiary dropping citations on a business when it complained. (Yes, really.) OSHA is underfunded, understaffed, and with a limited enforcement authority that companies can elude and laugh at; oftentimes, they face legal hurdles that can make punishing the wrongdoers nearly impossible. Too, workplace safety issues tend to affect people that, as a culture, we don’t care about– the working poor and the blue-collar. It’s very easy for a lot of people to say that they chose to take the job and knew the risks. But if something like cell tower climbing is the only thing you can do to feed your family…
In addition, one has to note the ways that a masculine ideology affects the workplace safety. A lot of corporations exploit this masculine, risk-taking ideal– the idea that a “real man” doesn’t give a fuck about his safety– to avoid having to spend money on proper safety requirements. If cutting corners makes it cheaper, they’ll pressure people to cut corners, on pain of being a wimp or a pussy. And that can lead to people’s deaths.
This Labor Day, remember what the unions fought for. The weekend, the forty-hour week, workplace safety, fair wages for fair work. Reasonable requests, yes, and ones that today are all too often eroded by the capitalist system. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Death should not be a routine risk of just having a job.