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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Back to the "Good Old Days???"

From the posts I have been getting on my commentaries about the Sago Mine Disaster, some people think that we do indeed need to get government out of the business of regulating workplace safety. After all, they argue, the government didn't prevent this disaster. What they ignore is that a government that has been working more and more as a tool of corporation interests and less and less in the interests of those who work for wages, has once again showed why the proper role government has in the workplace: to insure that employees' have an equal amount of power in their working environment. This is also why we need unions.

This is a lesson we seem to need to learn over and over again. Some in this country seem to want to return us to the "good old days" when government was less intrusive in the workplace. Well, as anyone who lived back then would tell you, the "good old days" weren't all that good. Case in point, the Sago Mine Disaster reminds me of another workplace disaster that took place when government truly stayed out of the affairs of business: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

This is from the Labor Arts web page: http://laborarts.org/exhibits/union/triangle.cfm

"T]he Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. . .located 8 blocks south of Union Square [in New York City}] On Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, about five hundred employees were at work making shirtwaists--the high-necked blouses worn by working women of the day. At 4:30 pm there was a muffled explosion. Smoke poured out of eighth-floor windows. Within minutes flames ranged out of control; girls jumped to certain death from windows high above the street; locked exits and a fire escape that buckled under the weight of fleeing workers blocked escape. The fire lasted only eighteen minutes, and killed 146 workers, most of them Jewish and Italian teenaged girls."

So, should we return to the "good days" when government left business alone, or should we get real and realize that business looks after itself and that we need union and a vigilant government to protect those who work for wages.

You have to decide, but remember, you may be in the same position one day.

1 comment:

ABL said...

I've responded to the regulation frenzy evidenced here: