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TRANSCRIPTION OF, “Injured Workers Get Support from Matt Gonzalez at 8/1/2008 CCWMD Press Conference”
transcribed to the best of the transcriber’s ability
Mr. Matt Gonzalez:
You know, for a number of years now under the current administration, there’s been a growing sense that the Department of Labor and OSHA do not have the resources committed to them to do the necessary job of enforcing the various laws that we have, on the book’s so to speak, and of course Mr. Nader has been instrumental in passing some of those important workplace and public safety laws.
It’s interesting..... I’ll tell you as an asigh, that the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chow... that one of my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors had offered accommodation for her, for her good works, which I and one other colleague voted against. We were condemned at the time because she has been saying over and over again that workplace injury and illness rate’s are the lowest ever recorded in 2006 and that has been an ongoing trend ever since she was appointed.
Unfortunately for her, the scrutiny of her record has finally caught up with her. The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor released a report; it was highly critical of her agenda. The report was titled, “Hidden Tragedy, Underreporting of workplace Injury... Injuries and Illnesses”.
And to just give you an idea I’m going to read you a quotation here that Steve [Zeltzer] prepared and I think it’s taken from the report, “Extensive evidence from academic studies, media reports and testimony show’s that work related injuries and illnesses in the United States are chronically and even grossly underreported”, the report said. “As much as 69% of injuries and illnesses may never make it into the survey of occupational injuries and illnesses, The nation’s annual workplace safety and health report card generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics”.
So it appears that Secretary Chow was in effect suggesting that she has done good work, simply because she is not funding and not asking that her agency do the critical work that it must. If we are truly going to keep track of these records, and obviously we condemn that, we’re not interested in a government that is like that and we hope that Democrats; the opposition party will do more to respond to this. It’s great that there’s this committee report, let’s see some action though and as you all know it’s an unfortunate reality that the United States Congress has; I think the lowest approval ratings that anybody has ever seen.
I want to speak briefly about two specific instances that we’re aware of and we wanted to show support for.
Ralph and I attended a Press Conference, Steve [Zeltzer] was instrumental in putting it together with the Downey workers in Santa Monica during an appearance that we made there and I really do want to convey that the workers were... that were present were in bad shape. I mean it was obvious that some of them had respiratory problems, some of them had... what appeared to be health head type injuries, some of them were complaining of other illnesses. And what.... in effect what happened is the Downey Studio that they worked at was built on a former Super Fund site that had been downgraded to I guess what’s called a Brownsfield site. And after working there for some time I believe it was over a hundred workers had these unusual kind of symptoms, that you just don’t get and it can’t be a coincidence. And yet, that’s what the government officials, who went on site to take a closer look, ultimately concluded; that it was just a coincidence and all these workers that were working there happened to have these very odd and strange illnesses all at once.’
Well it’s a failure of our government when we tolerate those kinds of findings, I think it’s an insult to common sense and it’s an insult to all of us when that’s the best our government can do, and Mr. Nader and I were there, we spoke out against it, we encouraged the press to report on it; to speak about it, to try to help us get the attention to these workers, cuz that’s the way government otta be. We otta be responsive and if mistakes were made; we otta take responsibility for it.
Here, closer to where we are in Davis, there’s a very unfortunate story involving a company called Agraquest and a particular worker, biotech worker there... that worked there named David Bell; I’ve traded phone calls with him to hear his story individually and again it’s another issue; an incident that Steve [Zeltzer] has been working on. But in affect it show’s that OSHA is not capable of; sort of keeping pace with emerging technologies; with the biotech industry etc. They don’t know what to do so they do very little, if anything and a worker like David Bell can be infected by fungus and bacteria that was illegally brought into this country by this company. It turns out that the..... that these organisms were patented by the owner, and yet they have never fully compensated Mr. Bell for his many injuries. The insurance company and the owner sorta trying to cost shift so that we pay for part of the injury.... and of course I wish David were here so you could hear from him directly.
But again, it’s just another example where you have clear causation and you have a company that’ fights.... fights causation; then tries to get somebody else to pay for it and never really takes full responsibility for what has happened.
I think now, more than ever, it’s important that we not allow the presidential race; that Mr. Nader and I are involved in to simply be a personality contest and some kind of race about charisma. It’s got to be about the issues and it’s got to about who has the history of working on the issues; whose been attacked for working on the issues and who has not deviated on those matters and I think if you review Mr. Nader’s record against that of other candidates...
I hope those that are here who do that will see he has a long history of working to improve public safety and health and also disclosures related to these issues by working on things like the Freedom Of Information Act.
I want to thank Steve [Zeltzer] for his diligent work on this. It’s hard to bring attention to these matters, but it requires committed individuals who are willing to do it and I thank him for his work.