Safety Awakening – “God Bless Labor Unions”

June 12, 2014 No Comments

Many companies brain wash new young safety professionals into viewing labor unions as the enemy.  As a part of the management team, safety professionals are expected to be anti-union like the other managers are.  Early in my career I gave in to this pressure and adopted the anti-union management line.

Then as I got older, I became more compassionate and more of an independent thinker.  

Now, I am offended by company executives who blame accidents on their employees.   I am sickened by greedy owner’s who live like a prince at the expense of their employees’ safety and health.  

Individual employees are powerless to stand against the bullying tactics of management – they need help – they need labor unions!

  • Unions are able to consistently get employees safer and more healthful working conditions.  Generally speaking, union plants are safer and more healthful places to work than non-union plants!  
  • Many business executives (especially those at privately owned companies) are very reluctant to spend “their money” on safety and health improvements that do not have an immediate payback to their bottom line.  These non-union, privately owned factories are sometimes toxic sweat shops with unguarded machinery.
  • Some factories are either operated on a “piece work” basis, or have conveyor lines.  Employees are required to keep up with the ever-increasing line speeds until many develop serious cumulative trauma disorders (not unlike the “ramming speed” scene in the Ben Hur movie).  The worst offenders are in the meat-packing industry.
  • OSHA helps to keep employers in line, but there are not enough OSHA inspectors and their budget and enforcement muscle is not sufficient to get the job done by themselves.  OSHA needs help from unions to improve the USA accident and illness rates.
  • I managed safety during two union strikes.  The threat of a strike puts fear in the hearts of company executives.  Without the threat of a strike, management will usually get their way on most issues.  But with a union, it’s an even playing field with power being equally divided between employees and management.


I  have friends and relatives who have died (or are dying) from occupational diseases (e.g. silicosis, mesothelioma, manganism) because their non-union employers refused to either eliminate/mitigate the hazard, provide respirators, or install proper work station ventilation. These unfortunate souls had no union to stand up for them.  

Thank God for unions, they level the playing field.  There should be a labor union at every “high hazard” workplace!

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