The Union Was the Only Friend He Had: On Joe Hill, Now More Than Ever

Protesting Trump anti-labor policies in Chicago. Getty Images

So many offenses against human decency, so little time. Just in time for Labor Day, we note the "death by a thousand cuts" that are curbs, stalls, rollbacks and "staggering" assaults on workers' rights and protections - many engineered by so-called labor officials who turn out to be racists, oligarchs or brazenly anti-union crusaders whose credentials come from conservative Christian correspondence courses, so we know just how good they are. Some of the damage to date: Cuts to measures helping victims of discrimination, a halt to Obama-era reporting by large companies to address gross pay inequity, threats to overtime pay and a pullback by OSHA on previously vital actions like reporting injuries and issuing news releases.

The latest travesty: Last week, under loathsome cover of Harvey - and using the same slimy method of making things like climate change and sexual awareness just go poof from websites - OSHA scrubbed from their home page a longtime running list of workers killed on the job, because, really, who wants to know about that? The list, which included the worker's name, date of accident and cause of death, disappeared Friday just as Little Donny was making his unpresidentedly surreal visit to wish Harvey victims, "Have a good time, everybody!" Gone was also the list's preface, noting that, "More than 4,500 workers lose their lives on the job every year....OSHA’s mission is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.” Also gone: a video telling workers they have the right to speak up about safety conditions, without reprisal.

The list did reappear, sort of: It was buried on an internal page deep within the site. It bears no names, just numbers. It only includes those fatalities at companies that received citations. It only includes workers at companies covered by OSHA, thus excluding most public employees and many thousands of contractors, free-lancers, workers at farms or small businesses etc. In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the changes would eliminate mention of all but two of the state's 32 work-related deaths last year. Anyone seeking to learn more now has to dig through various incident reports, summaries and investigations. A Labor Department spokesman said the change was made to ensure "more accurate" information.

On its front page, OSHA replaced the grim, icky list of deaths with a back-slapping feature, “OSHA Working With Employers,” which offers “a few examples of our cooperative programs" highlighting all the great companies trying not to kill more than their share of workers. Alas, the new focus on voluntary cooperation  fails to recognize that risks to workers are far greater at lousy companies that don't care how many people they kill and thus have no interest in voluntarily cooperating. But we guess that's what Dear Leader meant when he once declared, "The well-being of the American citizen and worker will be placed second to none.” In other words, "The Chamber of Commerce is fully in charge at OSHA."


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The OSHA video explaining their rights to workers. It was inexplicably removed.


To remind us why this is not okay, the great Phil Ochs singing Joe Hill. RIP to them both.

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