Unionbusting and the missing voice of Deepwater Horizon workers

Earlier this week, two wives of oil workers killed in April’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion spoke to Congress, asking the government to repeal the Death on the High Seas Act. Created in the 1920s, the law limits the liability for wrongful deaths that occur more than three miles offshore.

The families of workers who die on the job definitely deserve just compensation. But if we go back to how those oil workers were killed in the first place…these deaths could have been prevented with proper safety equipment and regulations. If the Employee Free Choice Act were passed, workers like the ones at Deepwater Horizon would have the power to join a union and get a say in their safety conditions, along with a grievance and arbitration procedure to go after safety violations – without getting fired, and before a preventable tragedy occurs.

Dean Corgey, vice president of the Seafarers International Union’s Gulf Coast District, put it best in an editorial in Thursday’s Houston Chronicle.

… Lack of union representation has denied oil-field workers a voice in the workplace, which in turn has created an out-of-control industry with little oversight or accountability. It is painful to see oil-soaked birds receive more media attention than injured, deceased or displaced workers. It is also painful to see the lack of an organized workers’ voice in the legislative and regulatory processes contribute to 11 deaths and the worst spill in U.S. history. This clearly did not have to happen.

Because of the efforts of unions, in 1970 Congress passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires businesses to advise their employees of on-the-job hazards and to do their best to prevent them. This was a huge step for workers’ rights, and now it’s time for the next step. The Employee Free Choice Act will allow more workers to join unions, so that they too can fight for their rights and make sure that preventable accidents like the Deepwater Horizon explosion never happen again.

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This entry was posted on Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 4:38 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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