By Evan Henerson
Fines or prison? What do you think?
Saturday is Workers Memorial Day 2017, a day on which the nation remembers men and women who have been severely injured, suffered or lost their lives while on the job. In addition to being a somber day, WMD is also a call to renew the fight for safe working conditions that is every worker’s right. You can find an event in your area by visiting the websites of OSHA and the AFL-CIO.
In anticipation of WMD, Leo W. Gerard, International President of United Steelworkers has written a column in the HuffPost reminding us that a USW member is killed on the job every 12 days.
“These are horrible deaths,” Gerard writes. “Workers are crushed by massive machinery. They drown in vats of chemicals. They’re poisoned by toxic gas, burned by molten metal. The company pays a meaningless fine. Nothing changes. And another worker is killed 11 days later.”
Gerard says that the United States needs a law comparable to the 2003 Westray Act that subjects a boss to unlimited fines and life sentences in prison if company recklessness causes the death of a worker. Gerard notes that, even in Canada, prosecutors rarely use the Westray Act. Most companies escape with fines.
Gerard reviews an exhaustive and detailed list of appalling on-the-job deaths that clearly should never have happened. He presents a thorough and well-reasoned argument to reach his conclusion:
“The only way to make workers’ lives matter is to make prison a real possibility for CEOs and supervisors. Lethal greed must be tempered by frightening ramifications. Fines are no threat. Only prison is. America needs its own Westray Law and aggressive enforcement.”
We encourage you to read the entire article.
Tell us what you think…should CEOs and supervisors go to prison for the accidental deaths of their workers?