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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 16 (1990)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 16 (1990)

Organizing for Health & Safety


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    Labor Bookshelf
    [Excerpt] Earlier this year, OCAW Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Mazzocchi, one of the "founding fathers" of the OSH movement in the late 1960s, started a new publication that embodies and seeks to further the growing coalition of OSH and environmental activists. We reprint here Mazzocchi's Publisher's Introduction to the first issue of New Solutions.
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    Stalking a Killer: UAW 735's Cancer Watch
    Leslie, Michael (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] GM Hydra-matic is a dangerous plant. Formerly known as the "Willow Run (Michigan) Bomber Plant" because it produced B-24 bombers during World War II, the plant today builds transmissions for GM vehicles and overseas customers such as Bentley, Jaguar, Rolls Royce and Isuzu. In manufacturing transmissions, the plant uses thousands of coolants, lubricants, degreasers and solvents. Those chemicals, workers suspect, are the causes of GM Hydramatic's high rate of cancer, particularly brain cancer. This is the story of how a group of workers represented by UAW Local 735 formed a union Cancer Watch Group (CWG) at GM Hydra-matic to address a problem that the company and outside researchers were not showing sufficient urgency about. It's a story of rank-and-file health-and-safety organizing that relies on the workers themselves to research the links between cancer and the substances they work with.
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    AIDS at Work: The SEIU AIDS Project
    Mehring, John (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] In the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, AIDS was primarily an urban phenomenon, appearing first among gay men, intravenous (I.V.) drug users and their sexual partners. Service workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Newark and Miami were among the first to confront this mysterious and frightening disease. As the number of AIDS patients grew, attention and anxiety followed. Reports surfaced that some healthcare and other workers were discriminating against persons with AIDS or those perceived to be at high risk for AIDS: gay men and minorities in inner-city areas. Sensational press coverage focused on public workers wearing protective equipment. These workers reacted to what they understood as possible exposure to AIDS by putting a barrier between themselves and the public: police and transit workers wore gloves, sanitation and public works employees donned suits and masks.
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    COSHes Help Build Healthy Unions
    Lessin, Nancy; Richardson, Charley (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Boston's current fiscal crisis has made the refrain "we have no money to fix it" seem like a broken record. Yet, recently, Boston City Hospital workers have won improved ventilation, larger work rooms, air conditioning in certain areas, and the closing of a particularly noxious area with the transfer of workers who had been assigned there. A key to these victories was the establishment of a well-trained three-union hospital-wide health and safety committee that meets regularly to tackle both ongoing problems and crises.
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    Joint Committees: No Substitute for Union Action
    Egarian, Marjorie (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Nearly half of all industrial union contracts mandate joint labor-management health and safety committees (JHSCs). In the past five years, mandated JHSCs have also become common in the public sector in states that have enacted occupational safety statutes for public workers. And now many health and safety activists are advocating state and federal laws that would require all workplaces, union and nonunion, to have JHSCs. Although such laws are vitally important in establishing worker rights to safe workplaces, by themselves joint committees cannot be expected to solve serious health and safety problems.
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    Reproductive Hazards: A Labor-Feminist Alliance
    Morse, Elise (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] This term the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case called UAW vs. Johnson Controls. The Court will decide on the legality of excluding women from certain jobs under the guise of protecting unborn children. The decision may have a dramatic impact on the future of women's equal employment opportunity and on companies' responsibility to provide clean and healthy workplaces for all workers.
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    Beating BASF: OCAW Busts Union-Buster
    Leonard, Richard; Nauth, Zack (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] What started as a labor dispute involving 370 workers in rural Louisiana ended after the OCAW had transformed the struggle into a worldwide labor-environmental coalition against the policies and practices of BASF everywhere. In the process both the workers and the communities along the Mississippi River that make up "chemical alley" (93 chemical plants from Baton Rouge to New Orleans) learned a lot about cancer and other devastating diseases and their links to the operating procedures of BASF and other chemical companies.
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    HELP in New Jersey: From Right-to-Know to Right-to-Act
    Jeffrey, Edith K. (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Since 1987 the New Jersey Right-to-Know-and-Act Coalition has been working to extend the rights of citizens and workers to take an active part in decisions vital to their health and safety. The Coalition initiated activity that has resulted in a bill now before the New Jersey Legislature. The bill is called Hazard Elimination through Local Participation — or HELP. If passed, HELP could become a model for other states, and a giant step toward worker and citizen empowerment for health and safety.
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    ILG Organizing Sweatshops: An Interview with Danny Perez, ILG Organizer
    [Excerpt] "Uretek" has become sort of a legend among union health and safety activists. It has all the elements of a good labor storyworking conditions you wouldn't believe unless and until you saw them, a struggle that combined a strike by severely exploited workers with a wide array of tactics that eventually grabbed the attention of the entire state of Connecticut, and a clear-cut victory for both the workers and for health-and-safety activism in New England.
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    Plucking Cargill: The RWDSU in Georgia
    Cromer, Linda (1990-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Buena Vista is remarkable, however, because of the courage and determination of the mostly black, mostly female poultry processing workers at Cargill, Inc. Their story is one of organizing a union to force management to pay some attention to the health and safety problems of poultry workers. The union, the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU), threw everything at Cargill to help these workers organize, stay organized, and win a first contract. The workers at Buena Vista, in turn, have inspired the RWDSU to target the poultry industry across the South for a major organizing effort in the 1990s.