Teresa Weaver Pickard, a 42 year-old employee of the Sewon America auto parts plant in LaGrange, Georgia, passed away on Wednesday, May 29.
The autopsy could take three to four months due to a backlog of cases, according to Troup County Coroner Jeff Cook. But we do know that workers at the LaGrange Sewon plant work in extreme heat for hours on end. In the same week, several other workers passed out due to the heat.
According to an anonymous employee who spoke to the LaGrange Citizen, management keeps the air conditioning off in the break room to “discourage loitering.” It’s so hot in the break room, he says, that the candy in the vending machines melted.
“I heard that [Pickard] complained of chest pain several times before she was sent to the break room,” he also said. She was then sent to the front office, where she sat for three hours before an ambulance was called. The anonymous employee reported that he heard Pickard died on her way to the hospital.
Pickard’s tragic death is an all-too familiar story of how a combination of neglect, contempt, and apathy toward worker conditions can have terrible consequences.
In 2011, Georgia had 111 reported workplace fatalities, and nearly 79,000 workplace injuries and illnesses. Georgia is also a so-called “right to work” state, where the government bans fair share contracts and unions are sapped of resources. The Sewon plant is one of many foreign-owned manufacturing plants across the South that offer almost exclusively non-union, low-wage work.
OSHA fined the plant in 2010, but management’s behavior did not change. “It’s a really hostile environment,” said the anonymous worker, “I really believe they [management] have contempt for their workers.”
“When my hubby worked at there 2-3 years ago he would always tell me how hot it was even back then, and then the uniform was long sleeve shirts,” wrote LaGrange Citizen reader Amanda Dawn Breazeal, “He said they had air and fans but they rarely to never turned them on…When my hubby broke his finger, he asked to go to the hospital and they told him no!”
The story of this particular plant is one of many, but there is hope. If this story sounds familiar, visit FixMyJob.com and learn how you can improve your workplace.
On Tuesday, negotiators from Patriot Coal walked out of talks with the Mine Workers (UMWA), leaving thousands of retirees in danger of losing their health care. The company also canceled talks scheduled through next week, UMWA reports via press release. UMWA President Cecil Roberts reported that the company and the union were only about $30 million to $35 million apart. Meanwhile, hundreds of high-paid executives at the company will be receiving about $25 million in bonuses.
We are very disappointed by this action. We had made significant progress toward reaching an agreement that provided a workable alternative to the severe terms Patriot asked for last spring and that were approved by the bankruptcy court in St. Louis. The union had agreed to more than $400 million in savings for the company over the life of the current contract, which gives them the money they say they need to survive. But that still wasn’t enough for them.
UMWA said the company is moving ahead with the implementation of terms and conditions approved by a judge, which means that Patriot will cut off the current health care system for more than 23,000 retirees, their dependents and surviving spouses. The old system will be replaced with a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association that only has guaranteed funding of $15 million, plus a royalty payment of 20 cents per ton of coal produced, which is projected to raise another $5 million a year. UMWA also will be given 35% ownership in Patriot Coal, which they can sell after the value of the company—that’s in bankruptcy—is established. Current retiree health care costs are about $5 million a month.
Patriot also will be able to deny all retiree health care benefits to 40% of currently active workers who have already worked enough years to earn those benefits. The company also can reduce pay, benefits and paid time off for active workers.
Roberts said UMWA will not give up the fight to make sure Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the companies that the UMWA argues set Patriot up specifically to fail to dump employee health care costs, take responsibility:
We are not letting them off the hook. We are airing a new round of television spots that feature the voices of the victims of their scheme. Thousands of us will be back in front of Peabody’s offices next week, and more events are planned in St. Louis and throughout the coalfields in the coming months. No matter what the events of the next few weeks may bring, this struggle is a long, long way from being over.
The U.S. Senate today voted 82-15 to begin debate on the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, after Republicans failed to muster a filibuster. The legislation provides a road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
Earlier in the day, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined President Obama at a press conference to rally support for the bill. Obama explained the importance of the legislation:
Throughout our history, the promise we found in those who come from every corner of the globe has always been one of our greatest strengths. It’s kept our workforce vibrant and dynamic. It’s kept our businesses on the cutting edge. It’s helped build the greatest economic engine that the world has ever known.
We spend a big part of our life at work—but for too many of us, that time is spent bumping up against challenges that make it hard to deal with. Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with it alone.
We’ve just launched FixMyJob.com, an innovative new website to help you identify the biggest problems you see at your job and solve them. We’re really excited to introduce FixMyJob.com and give people the tools to make their own lives better.
We’ve listened closely to what you’ve had to say about the challenges you face at work. For some, it’s harassment or verbal abuse from a boss; for others, it’s a schedule that they can’t control, or a lack of opportunity for raises and advancement. Across the country, one of the biggest issues is an ever-increasing imbalance of power between employees and the companies they work for. These aren’t things you just have to put up with.
The Letter Carriers’ (NALC) annual food drive collected 74.3 million pounds of food and was the second most successful in the program’s 21 years. The food was used to restock food banks, pantries and shelters around the country. The total was an increase of 5% over last year and was the highest in a decade.
NALC President Fredric Rolando stressed the importance not only of the food drive, but of the broader service postal carriers provide to their communities in a statement:
This demonstrates in clear fashion the value of the unique postal network, which goes to 151 million addresses six days a week. It also shows the remarkable connection between letter carriers and the communities they serve—a bond that serves the nation well. Letter carriers see firsthand the needs in the communities where we work, and we’re honored to be able to help people in need by leading an effort that brings out the best in so many Americans.
The NALC effort is the largest annual food drive in the United States and this year it touched 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.
The drive was successful, in part, because of a diverse group of national partners: Feeding America, Campbell Soup Co., AARP, Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Valassis/Red Plum, U.S. Postal Service, United Way Worldwide, AFL-CIO, Uncle Bob’s Self Storage, GLS Companies, Source Direct Plastics and the Publix grocery store chain. Postal employees, union members, civil volunteers and Family Circus cartoonist Jeff Keane also assisted in the effort.
‘We could not have accomplished this without the hardworking team of partners we have, all committed to ending hunger in our country,’ said Pam Donato, NALC community services coordinator. The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive never has been more important than in these times, with hunger a growing problem—affecting about 50 million people around the country, including 17 million children and 9 million senior citizens. Pantry shelves filled up through winter and holiday generosity often are bare by late spring. And, with most school meal programs suspended during summer months, millions of children must find alternate sources of nutrition.
The recent natural disasters, such as tornadoes in Oklahoma and Super Storm Sandy on the East Coast, were particularly tough on food supplies this year and states like Oklahoma, Vermont and New Jersey set food collection records in response.
If you’re thinking of splurging, spring for some game day tickets so you can watch your favorite baseball players, who are members of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and make sure dear old dad gets a heaping cup of Budweiser beer, made by the Teamsters (IBT) and IAM.