National Worker Safety Council Names 12 Worst Corporate Violators

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

A Boston contractor whose indifference to safety led to a trench collapse where two workers drowned and a Lansing, Ill., tanker cleaning service which let fumes overcome three workers – one of whom died – in a tank car in New Orleans are among the “Dirty Dozen” companies endangering their workers, all cited in a new report by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. 

The COSH Council, a pro-worker group, released the report in advance of Workers Memorial Day, April 28, which honors the 4,836 workers who died on the job in 2015, the most recent year federal statistics are available, and the thousands more who are injured or become ill due to occupational hazards.

“The Dirty Dozen shows the need for more enforcement” by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and by federally approved state OSHAs, Jordan Barab, a former union safety and health director and the agency’s #2 official during the Democratic Obama administration, told an April 26 telephone press conference. 

“Lack of worker protections and lack of strong enforcement will not deter” firms that break safety and health laws, Barab added. “Particularly hurt would be day laborers, immigrant workers and those whose first language is not English.”

In New Orleans, 49-year-old Armond Stack died inside a rail tank car the workers were cleaning in October 2015. The three lacked harnesses, and the confined space lacked oxygen, the city coroner said. OSHA proposed fining the firm, Dedicated TCS, $226,310. TCS had prior repeated confined space violations in other locations, including in Lansing and Channahon, Ill. 

The Boston trench collapse occurred in October 2016 – a period yet to be covered by OSHA numbers or other reports. Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were digging the trench when a nearby water main broke, sending dirt, mud, gravel and water cascading down upon them, said Jeff Newton, communications director for Massachusetts COSH.

Mattocks and Higgins drowned when their employer, Atlantic Drain, did not follow basic safety rules, Newton said. OSHA probed the collapse, but Boston authorities have moved more quickly, he added: The district attorney indicted both the firm and its owner on two counts of manslaughter and other charges. 

And the city council passed an ordinance barring construction firms with a history of serious and repeated OSHA violations – like Atlantic Drain – from getting city permits.  The state senate is considering similar legislation. The city council is also considering amending a 200-year-old law that now limits fines in such cases to $1,000. It would raise fines to $250,000.

Besides Atlantic Drain and Dedicated TCS, others among the Dirty Dozen and their safety violations include:

• California Cartage of Long Beach: The report said driver William Vasquez died and OSHA found serious job safety violations in both Long Beach and at a coastal city in Georgia. They included lack of machine safeguards and faulty brakes on the trucks. 

 

Speakers at the COSH conference call noted the firm treats its drivers – one of several groups of port truckers whom the Teamsters are trying to organize in Los Angeles-Long Beach – as “independent contractors” unprotected by workplace laws, including labor laws. 

 

• Dollar General in Goodlettsville, Tenn. The report calls all the chain’s stores “a fire disaster waiting to happen” with blocked exits. OSHA cited the chain more than 100 times and fined it more than $1 million combined for that violation alone in its stores nationwide. 

 

• Environmental Enterprises, Inc., of Spring Grove, Ohio, where a chemical explosion killed Zachary Henzerling, 20. OSHA’s report describes a “complete disregard for employees’ safety.” The firm was indicted for involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.

 

• Fuyao Glass America of Dayton, Ohio, the world’s largest auto glass plant – which doesn’t provide its workers with gloves. Workers were exposed to broken glass, and risked amputation. OSHA cited it for 23 serious violations and reported “extensive complaints from workers” about unsafe conditions.

 

• The Nissan USA auto plant in Franklin, Tenn., which the United Auto Workers have been trying to organize. Four workers died over a four-year period. Safety violations are rampant, one speaker on the press call said, because other workers fear losing their jobs if they complain – despite the OSHA act’s ban on retaliation against whistleblowers. OSHA has fined Nissan $99,000. The UAW is using the firm’s misdeeds to contend Nissan workers could get better protection if they vote union and get a contract. 

 

• The Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing plant in Greeley, Colo. One worker died and another lost fingers in a machine “because management did nothing” to address amputation risk, the Dirty Dozen report says. Workers are also exposed to toxic ammonia.

 

• PrimeFlight of Nashville, Tenn., exposes its workers to blood-borne pathogens. OSHA said PrimeFlight has 22 violations in the last three years. Conditions there are “likely to cause death or serious harm.”

 

• TransAm Trucking of Olathe, Kansas: That’s the case of frozen trucker Alphonse Maddin in Illinois. OSHA and its appeals board ruled for him after TransAm fired him for protecting his own life by detaching his cab, in -37 weather, from a trailer with frozen brakes, and seeking help and heat, after reporting the problem. Maddin won $280,000 in back pay – and opposition from Appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch, the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.

The report also names one foreign firm: The South Korean computer/phone chip maker Samsung. The Dirty Dozen report says more than 200 Samsung workers became seriously ill, and 76 died, from fumes released while making the chips. The firm also retaliates by a secret plan to “dominate employees” and “punish leaders,” the report says. Samsung’s CEO is now awaiting trial in South Korea’s wide-ranging presidential bribery scandal. 

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Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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