Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Message to AZ Progressive Bloggers

This morning I listened to an American father weep as he described getting one day's notice that his job would be outsourced. His crime? He had approached management three times asking to meet with a committee of workers to improve the safety conditions in the warehouse. This is a prominent employer. This is also a place where just one hour's sick leave, even with a doctor's written confirmation, results in "points" on your record, and where 16 points means you're fired.

My friends, low-paid Arizona workers are suffering in huge numbers, and it isn't only our undocumented workers. We may hear more about them, but worker exploitation and dehumanizing, dangerous workplaces are far more common here than the largely church-going, generally kind people of our state understand.

In this notoriously anti-union state, many employers, large, middling, and small, routinely engage in labor practices that would sicken a decent justice-oriented person. Withholding water from construction worksites. Cheating workers of earned wages. Punishing pro-workplace safety leaders by outsourcing their jobs on a day's notice. Subjecting workers to intimidation, harrassment, surveillance, and sabotage to suppress efforts to win fair and safe working conditions.

When these things happen, decent, hardworking people lose their lives, their limbs, their eyes, their wages, their homes, and even their families. Unsafe workplaces mean reckless operation of heavy equipment. Foundry furnaces operated by people without training, or furnaces with broken door hinges, resulting in a young man's death. Doubled-up work orders for "troublemakers"--that is, more work than one person can do in the allotted time--that result in exhaustion and serious accidents for themselves and their co-workers.

This doesn't lower our costs. On the contrary. It raises our costs in every way.

The problem is that most Arizonans do not know. We just don't know.

The reason is because there are no firewalls between media marketing and media editorial operations. Too often, the companies whose advertising dollars keep large state newspapers, magazines, and websites in business are also the companies that deliberately endanger and exploit their workers. They can do that because nobody knows.

There's no sunlight on exploited workers and filthy, unsafe workplaces.

It's a vicious circle that doesn't just corrupt management and exploit laborers. Generally, jurisdictions that discourage fair labor laws also discourage fair consumer protections. It doesn't take much imagination to see that a company that will cheat its stockroom workers of earned wages won't have any problem stocking expired or substandard merchandise. It can do those things because nobody knows.

Just as bloggers nationally force the mainstream media to cover news that is in the best interests of the people as a whole, so Arizona bloggers can help bring our state into the 21st Century with regard to workers' issues. We can help guide our citizens into a new future where employers and consumers alike understand that a healthy workplace ecology means a higher level of prosperity and quality for all.

We need to care about the fundamentals in our state: our workers, our workplaces, the wages our employers pay, and the benefits they provide, as well as workplace health and safety and product quality control standards. These are the building blocks of our own communities and of our own quality of life: When we take care of the fundamentals, everyone benefits. There's no such thing as half a boat sinking.

So I'm calling today for progressive Arizona bloggers to devote some of our energies to publicizing what's going on. I'm both asking for grassroots reporting, for organized networking, and for giving some of our Internet exposure to media releases that cover these issues. This information sharing on behalf of Arizona's low-wage families is our responsibility so long as we call ourselves "progressives.
Why? Because justice is a fundamental, non-negotiable progressive value.

If you are interested in being part of a statewide information/justice network for AZ's lower-tier workers and their families, please contact Pico. Let me know. Flip me an email at picodegallo@cox.net . In this way we can keep each other informed, with media releases, stories, and reports that more conservative mainstream media either block or ignore. Let's work together to raise Arizonans' awareness of the basics. It's not just about lower-tier workers. It's also about our families, our kids, and our collective future.


shrimplate said...

As a registered nurse I am somewhat insulated from the more egregious examples of worker abuse. There's such a shortage here in the Valley that if I lost my job today, I'd have another one by Monday afternoon. Nurses are basically set, unless they kill somebody.

Having said that, I often work 6 to 7 hours straight without more than a moment's break to relieve my bladder. A 20-minute "lunch" is all that segments my 12-hour shifts, which often extend to over 13 hours.

I am not complaining. Just describing. I cannot complain and I do not wish to, because I can see how so many others work much harder for much less.

It sickens me.

Some have described the modern corporation as "pychopathological." I think they are; obviously so. Maybe this is just a projection and manifestation of the sorts of human minds that run these monsters. Worker abuse benefits noone. But it happens all the time.