Labor Day Special, Part 3, 'Unjust Rewards': Washington Rewards Workplace Safety Violators with Millions of Dollars in Contracts

StorySeptember 02, 2002
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Nearly 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair published 'The Jungle', a muckraking expose of the meat industry that brought to light many of the great dangers American workers faced on the job.

A century later, workplace safety remains a key issue for labor unions who charge the federal government has failed to set proper standards.

Last week the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Doug Dority told reporters, “Workers depending on voluntary guidelines developed by the big corporations for workplace safety protections is like depending on an Enron 401(k) plan for your retirement security — nobody gets hurt in the boardroom, but workers lose everything.”

Workers can lose everything, including their life. An estimated 165 people across the country die every day from illnesses related to their jobs. Another 18 will die from work-related injuries.

And the government has not only failed to enforce its own standards but also awarded billions of dollars in contracts to many of the very corporations who have among the worst worker safety records.

According to a recent investigative report by Ken Silverstein in 'Mother Jones' magazine, over fifty of the nation’s largest contractors were cited for close to 1,400 workplace safety violations. Each violation posed a risk of death or serious physical harm to workers. Ford Motor Company racked up almost three hundred “serious” OSHA violations between 1995 and 2000. But the government awarded them $442 million in federal business in those years.

Today, on Labor Day, we will look at workplace safety and examine what the U.S. government is doing to protect workers.

We’ll talk with Lisa Cullen author of the new book 'A Job To Die For' and investigative journalist Ken Silverstein who authored the Mother Jones article “Unjust Rewards”.


  • Ken Silverstein, journalist and author of 'Unjust Rewards' in May/June 2002 Mother Jones.
  • Lisa Cullen, author of 'A Job to Die for: why so many Americans are killed, injured or made ill at work and what to do about it.'

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