Condemning the slave labor conditions that exist in Bangladesh and all over the world, Pope Francis has a very apt May Day message:
“Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity,” the Pope said at a private Mass.
“Not paying a fair wage, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking to make a profit, that goes against God,” he was quoted as saying by Vatican radio.
I wonder if those Catholic-owned businesses fighting the Obamacare birth control mandate — Freshway Foods, Domino’s Farms, Hercules Industries, Sioux Chief Manufacturing, etc. — embrace this church view as robustly as they do the one about women’s reproductive rights?
Meanwhile, in the streets of Bangladesh’s capitol, people are protesting for better working conditions and there are calls for the owner of that collapsed factory building to get the death penalty. He’s currently under arrest and charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing people to work.
Here at home, the owner of that West, Texas fertilizer plant remains happily free, despite the fact that the plant appears to have violated multiple regulations as well as common sense. I guess with this being Texas, the free hand of the market was supposed to protect those people who died or were injured when the plant blew:
Texas does not have an occupational safety and health program that meets federal requirements. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is therefore responsible for ensuring the safety of potentially dangerous workplaces like the West facility.
OSHA has inspected the West plant exactly once in the company’s 51-year history. That 1985 inspection detected multiple “serious” violations of federal safety requirements for which the company paid a grand total of $30 in fines. OSHA’s 1992 process-safety-management standard for highly hazardous chemicals is supposed to protect against disasters like the West explosion, but it wasn’t in place for that inspection.
Regardless, OSHA lacks the resources to undertake the kind of comprehensive inspection needed to ensure compliance with the process safety standard at small facilities like West Fertilizer Company. OSHA’s tiny staff of around 2,400 inspectors is spread so thin that it would take more than 90 years to conduct even cursory inspections of all eligible workplaces in Texas.
Freedom! This is what happens when you “starve the beast,” folks. I’m sure everyone would love to blame the federal government for this disaster, but you can’t be all Tenth Amendment when it suits you and then say the Feds should have protected you after the inevitable happens.
Speaking of inevitable, did you hear the one about the worker in Oregon who died after he fell into a blender at a meat processing plant? According to the news report,
An OSHA report on the plant in February found machines were not locked during the tear-down process for cleaning.
Or, less gruesome — but closer to home — what about the pregnant T-Mobile empoyee in Nashville who was told she had to clock out every time she needed to pee?
She tried to hold off on eating and drinking; she needed the health insurance the job provided. But the baby was suffering, Rifkin said, and she had to start drinking water again.
Finally, she said, her supervisor pulled her aside and told her to get a note from her doctor explaining that she needed to go the bathroom often. ”At that point, I thought my head was going to launch off my shoulders,” said Rifkin. “‘Are you serious? I need to get a note from my doctor to go to the toilet?’ This is a basic biological need.’”
But Rifkin did as she was told; she got the doctor’s note and cleared it with Human Resources. She was told that she could use the rest room any time she needed to, she said, but that she would have to clock out. When she returned from that bathroom, she would have to clock back in. “This meant I was out of work for five minutes,” she said. She had to write the hours down and turn it into her supervisor, just to make sure she wasn’t taking advantage of the situation.
Nope, whether you’re in a place like Bangladesh or right here in the U.S.A., it’s not exactly the best of times to be a worker. You’re either treated no better than a slave or your boss steals your wages and your health, safety and welfare are treated with contempt. So what if you fall into that vat of boiling gook, there are a hundred more just like you who’d kill for your job, right?
To quote Paul Hawkin and Amory Lovins,
People are often spoken of as being a resource — every large business has a “human resources” department — but apparently they are not a valuable one.
Indeed. This is what Republicans don’t understand. This is the message they missed in that 47% video. When you treat people like they aren’t valuable, like their only worth is in the profit they can bring you, you’re dehumanizing them. This is why capitalism needs to be counterbalanced with instutions that promote social welfare and the common good. Otherwise, it runs roughshod over humanity.
I’m glad that Pope Francis has highlighted the way capitalism is at odds with Christianity. I just wonder if that message will ever sink in.