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What a Night!
Right now I’m still b= asking in the warm glow of the election while trying to imagine the possibilities = of having an administration in office that might actually attempt to help work= ing people. What a night! Although you might think I’m talking about the evening Barack Obama and Joe Biden were elected (and to be sure, I’ll never forget that night), there were many other nights before that magical evening that went a long way toward the ultimate goal. Night after night, d= ay after day, UAW Local 974 retirees flexed the muscles that make this local t= he political machine that it is. Our retirees always work above and beyond the call of duty by stuffing envelopes, building up signs, knocking on doors and calling prospective voters in order to help elect labor-friendly candidates= to political office—they are amazing! Add to their efforts those of Randy Smith and the entire CAP Committee and you can see why politicians running = for office, from local to national races call and visit our local on a regular basis. Please take the time to thank the retirees and the CAP Committee the next time you see them because they, and the job they do, are truly incredi= ble.
Better Safety Numbers at Any Cost
Do you ever wonder why you = have to put your name on sign-in sheets when you attend almost any meeting at CAT? No, it’s not for attendance, at least not the kind you’re thinking = of. It’s to make sure you can be= held accountable for the content of the meeting/training/information, no matter = how lame. I distinctly remember an incident where one of our members had four fingers cut off in a band saw incident. Management was able to retrieve his Lockout/Tagout training history from 21 years ago—his last training on that subject.
The same goes for any online training that you take. I’ve recently been dealing with a member who = was discharged for “safety violations”. Management is actually using one line from one page of an entire completed safety CLMS class to justify = this person’s firing. So I tell you, if you sign your name to something, be careful to pay attention to detail, ask any and all questions that you have, and ask for copies of the training, because CAT is sending the blame for any injury or incident your way if= at all possible.
Now, having warned you abou= t what you sign, you also have to worry about anything you say when you are in Medical. We have a member who went to First Aid after suffering an injury at work. So far so good, right? The nurse asked what happened and our member described the circumstances that led to the injury, but the nurse wrote down something else. During the investigation, the worker repeated to management what was told to the nurse, but the story didn’t match, so management= put our member out on the street. Ask the nurse to see or have them read what w= as written and correct anything that does not accurately describe what happene= d to you - your job could be at risk if you don’t.
I’ve mentioned Weinga= rten Rights before, but it never hurts to review important concepts. Whenever yo= ur boss asks you any questions that you feel could lead to you getting in trou= ble, you have the right to have a union representative present. So, picture in y= our mind an accident investigation. What is the purpose of this investigation? = Is it to find the root causes and take corrective actions to prevent recurrence? Are the corrective actions based on what is effective or what is convenient?
People who investigate acci= dents for a living will tell you there is never just one root cause of the accide= nt, there are many. Unfortunately most CAT accident investigations operate with perfect 20/20 hindsight and the path of least resistan= ce for management is to blame the injured worker. The easiest way to blame the wor= ker is to have them blame themselves. What could you have done differently? How could you have prevented this incident? Depending on your answer to questio= ns such as these, or because of some training you signed off on in the past, y= ou could be on the outside looking in. Now do you think it might be in your be= st interest to have a union representative present when you’re involved = in an accident investigation? Le= t us be there to help protect you.
In my career, I’ve be= en to First-Aid more times than I’d like to admit, but it always annoys me = when I get the question from the nurse, “So, what did you do to hurt yourself”? I guess I look like I’ve nothing better to do than to get burned, cut, smashed, crushed, strained, sprained or sick. Maybe itR= 17;s just me, but if I’m in First-Aid, I’m already hurt, so why insu= lt me? I’ve never been injured on purpose because by definition, it hurt= s. But it’s the nature of the question that I always find offensive, what did I do? I’ll tell you what Local 974 members do to hurt themselves.=
Our members pull on a pry b= ars wedged in antique bar knobs on fixtures that hurt them just like it hurt the guy who did the same job thirty years ago. To do the same thing time and ti= me again and expect a different outcome is a sign of insanity. Surely a multi-billion dollar company like CAT can do better than to use 1940’s technology bar knobs that litter TTTBU fixtures? There are suppliers that o= ffer hydraulic clamps for fixtures that both reduce injuries by eliminating expo= sure to ergonomic hazards and improve quality by providing consistent clamping pressure.
Our members pick up heavy p= arts off of a flat on the floor and hurt their backs. The crane/hoist doesn’t operate correctly and neither the outside maintenance personnel nor their n= ew boss (who is always at meetings) seem to have much interest in getting it fixed. Did they use proper lifting technique you ask? That’s what the boss asked too. Why is it their fault? Why are the parts located that low? = Where is the lift/tilt table? Are they supposed to bring that in from home? Our friends at Deere do not allow = flats or pallets on the shop floor. They have to be placed on risers so workers cannot bend down to retrieve parts (they’re easier to sweep around to= o).
Our members have grinding w= heels on unguarded grinders explode and hit them in the face. Never mind that the unguarded grinders are illegal according to OSHA, you’d damn well bet= ter have a face shield on or you’ll be disciplined. Also never mind that = CAT was cited again by OSHA for unguarded grinders (the 4th time in = the last 16 months), Corporate Labor Relations has said that the next person ca= ught with an unguarded grinder will be fired. Either our members are bringing th= ese illegal grinders in from home complete with extra grinding/cut-off wheels or the company is purchasing this equipment for us to use in our jobs. They watch us use it every day, but only become interested in guards and such luxuries after an injury occurs and the need to assign blame presents itsel= f.
Our members are exposed to hazardous materials every day at work. The chemicals in paint vapors and mi= sts, metalworking fluid, weld smoke, oils, silica and other materials do not necessarily lead to a long and healthy life, but we get the job done every = day. Recent exposure information provided to the UAW International Health and Sa= fety Department by Caterpillar indicates 25% of the welding smoke samples taken = were at or above the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists r= ecommended limit for manganese. There have been cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, benzene exposure, asbestos exposure and other work-related exposures to mem= bers of our local union. What did those workers do to expose themselves other th= an go to their job?
Finally, our members serve = their country. I am personally aware of cases where our military veteran members = have their work-related injuries classified as non-occupational by managers eage= r to keep their injury and illness numbers down. By claiming that the injuries w= ere related to the workers prior military service, rather than their work-relat= ed exposure to hazards, the employer is able to deny workers compensation and = an OSHA recordable injury. According to OSHA, You must consider an injury or illness= to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused = or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness (29CFR1904.5). The denial of responsibil= ity for military veteran’s work-related injuries is a new low.
Regar= dless of how conditions exist today, help is on the way. Barack Obama is an unabashed supporter of workers’ rights. The House Labor Committee has held hear= ings regarding the under-reporting of workplace injuries and retaliation against injured workers. For the last eight years, the health and safety of workers= has taken a back seat to letting business do anything they want. Worker health = and safety is a hot-button issue for labor, and I hope to see positive changes = to OSHA enforcement and regulation in the Obama administration.
Pleas= e report all work-related injuries and illnesses. If you have to ask yourself whether you should report the injury or not, you should. Ask to see your union safe= ty representative if you have any questions about your health and safety. Requ= est a union representative any time you are questioned about work-related injur= ies or illnesses. Ask to review what the nurse writes when you report an injury= or illness. Point out Health and Safety issues to your supervisor, preferably = with witnesses and write down the day and date, especially if you are a Suppleme= ntal worker. At that point, you are in the first stage of the Safety Complaint Procedure which is union activity, one of the two ways the union can file a grievance in the event Caterpillar decides to discharge you.
Steve= Mitchell, Plantwide Safety Representative