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On August 1, 2008, the California Coalition For Workers Memorial day organized a press conference and speak out in Sacramento on the attack on injured workers, the collapse of Ca-OSHA and the destruction of Workers Comp to prevent injured workers from getting healthcare and benefits.
Consumer advocate and United States Presidential Candidate, Ralph Nader was one of the speakers.
TRANSCRIPTION OF, “Injured Workers Get Support from Nader At CCWMD Press Conference”
transcribed to the best of the transcriber’s ability
Mr. Ralph Nader:
In 1969, when we initiated the drive to create Federal OSHA, the amount of money that the states and departments were spending on worker’s safety was measured in a few dollars per worker. I think Texas was something like $5.00 per worker a year, essentially nothing.
And so when OSHA started, there was a great hoax that with a trade union movement finally on board, and the money coming into Federal OSHA, that there would be an invigoration to state level. And to some degree there was, but it’s all back down to 1960’s again. Again, it’s a disaster.
The number of inspectors has been declining, the number of Md.'s going down to zero. It’s a total collapse and our public officials are responsible, our corporate criminals are responsible and I would put the responsibility on the [California] Attorney General, Jerry Brown to invigorate the law enforcement process. He has significant authority and he has worked on environmental emissions. But the are occupational emissions in the workplace, they both produce death and injury/disease, and he’s got to pay more attention to it. I understand he [Jerry Brown] has ambitions to become Governor again. I’m going to be writing him a letter, basically saying, “where is the Attorney General of California here?”
In Los Angeles we [Ralph Nader for President and his Vice President running mate, Matt Gonzales - 2009] were at a news conference with some of the Downey worker’s and they were so afflicted and sick, I was wondering how they were even able to stand up. They are being poisoned on the installment plan and nobody cares. There’s two Senator’s in Washington, don’t care. Representative don’t care, Department of Public Health doesn’t care, Cal OSHA doesn’t care, District Attorney’s don’t care. We’re basically seeing the final stages of abandonment of American worker’s by giant corporations and by the indentured nature of the law enforcement.... the law enforcement establishment.
So, I’m glad we’re all here today. Steve [Zeltzer] has done a very good job bringing together the details. and I must say, I’m shocked myself at the details.
When you... international labor organizations for example say’s that there should be one inspector for every 10,000 workers. Now that’s part of the United Nations and it’s based in Rome. And, in California it’s one inspector for every 92,000 workers and the last Doctor [Dr Larry Rose] has just left in 2006. He was a public health official in OSHA [and now] it doesn’t have a Doctor. Now, the AFLCIO in Washington has at least 12 million members , after the split, and it has 1 person, full time, working on occupational disease and injury.
We’re talking about 58 million Americans who die every year from occupation related disease and trauma and the major union confederation has 1 person, full time. Very dedicated, she’s been there for 25 years, sometimes they don’t even give her full time support.
And that basically say’s it all to me because you can expect businesses to be cruel and marginalize innocent workers. You can expect government to surrender, but when you have the union’s themselves, the leader’s of whom are making; very good money, special pensions, all kinds of expense accounts... basically not being concerned with their rank and file. With few exceptions; like the California Nurse’s Association.
So, we’re going to all work together to make this a front page issue again; and the people who are going to help make it are the worker’s themselves and their family’s, some of them are here today. Cuz we’re dealing here with a kind of homicide in the workplace that’s rationalized as just being, well you know, “so sorry that’s the way the ball bounces”.
The Workers” Comp system is broken. There’s all kind of deliberate underreporting of injuries by corporations; something we discovered in 1969, we thought OSHA was going to turn it around. But actually underreporting of injuries is a very powerful argument to turn this situation around because that really is the ultimate cruelty, isn’t it? First, you have workplaces that kill and injure and make ? worker’s, and then you don’t even give them the respect to count their numbers. That’s the way it was in 1969; I remember making that point at Congressional hearings before OSHA was formed, and it was very very powerful.
So, when things get really bad the agreement's get better, right Steve? And we have very very powerful arguments.
And also, people have to take to the streets; have to demonstrate in front of the Attorney General’s office, demonstrate in front of Cal OSHA, [and] demonstrate in front of the chief corporate culprits and we’re going to make this a part of our campaign. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk about occupational death and injury/disease and we have no competition from the major party candidates, they never talk about it. I don’t remember seeing John McCain or Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton ever talk about it. It’s like it’s in the back water of the political scene.
So it’s time for a new militancy, you gotta do this, at least once a generation, cuz the corporations; 24/7 keep coming and coming and coming. And now, we can accuse them of abandoning the country in terms of employment, globalization... so they’ve lost the patriotic argument. They lost the market verdict argument; you know, “We’re just doing what the market demands”.... because they now go to Washington for bailouts, as Wall Street is doing now.
So they are really very vulnerable, but they’re not going to be actually vulnerable unless we [be]come much more militant and much more demanding, and I hope the families, the worker’s themselves will lend their grievance and their pain and suffering to this effort as much is humanly possible.