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Tony Mazzocchi

‘Blame-the-Worker’ Allegations Reveal Deep Divide Between Labor, Management

By Stephen Lee - Tony Mazzochi Center for Health, Safety, and Environmental Education, March 10, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Feb. 27 — Worker advocates and some labor scholars contend that employers routinely blame and punish employees for sustaining on-the-job injuries, reflecting a fundamental dysfunction in labor relations.

Employer representatives dispute those claims, saying the allegations are purely anecdotal and require knowledge of employers’ motives that workers don’t have.

“Blame-the-worker” policies take many forms, James Frederick, the United Steelworkers’ assistant director for health, safety and environment, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 27: discipline for workers who suffer injuries, incentives for those who avoid them, signs promoting the number of consecutive days without lost-time incidents or programs in which workers are assigned to monitor each other for safety violations.

“All of these programs, what unites them is [that] they say, ‘If you get injured, it’s your fault, so we’re going to give you a prize because you’ve worked safely, or we’re going to punish you because you worked unsafely,’ ” said Nancy Lessin, a United Steelworkers employee representative.

Tony Mazzocchi Talks About Chemicals and the Workers: 1978 National Film Board of Canada

An answer to the jobs-environment conflict?

By Tony Mazzochi - Green Left - September 8, 1993

Our first concern is to protect the jobs, incomes and working conditions of our members. On the other hand, people who work in hazardous industries, as many union members do, want safe jobs and a healthy environment. We must do everything we can to provide a workplace and environment free from recognised hazards.

The only way out of the jobs versus environment dilemma is to make provision for the workers who lose their jobs in the wake of the country's drastically needed environmental clean-up, or who are displaced or otherwise injured by economic restructuring, or military cutbacks and shifts of manufacturing overseas.

It will take an ambitious, imaginative program of support and re-education — going far beyond the inadequacies and deceptive "job retraining" programs that really mean a downward spiral to low-paying service jobs or subsistence level unemployment income.

The GI Bill after World War II, an innovative and successful program, is the precedent upon which the Superfund for Workers is based. The GI Bill helped more than 13 million ex-servicemen and women between 1945 and 1972 make the transition from military service to skilled employment in the private sector. This program had a formidable price tag, but the country overwhelmingly approved it as an investment in the future. Education became the key to national economic recovery. Education remains just as powerful a force today and is the basis of a concept supported by OCAW called "The Superfund for Workers".

OCAW members are concerned with the environment — our record over the years demonstrates this very fundamental fact. However, our members also are concerned about their jobs. It is small comfort to know that the environment is improving, but our jobs no longer exist.

There is, obviously, a major contradiction to be overcome. We want jobs and a clean environment. Environmental organisations representing millions demand a clean-up of toxics and a halt to the continuing toxification of the environment. However, they lack a clear idea of how to accomplish that desirable goal without a loss in jobs or a mass movement into jobs that pay only the minimum wage.

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