As I walked out of the building the other day, I saw a man I’ve known for a long time walking gingerly on crutches towards the parking lot. As I got closer, I noticed a cast on his leg. When I asked what happened, he explained that he was hurt in an accident at work and he was pretty mad about it. “They’ve known about that hazard for a long time, but nobody’s ever done anything about it,” he said with disgust. I understood his feelings exactly.


When we observe something at work that is unsafe or has the potential to affect someone’s health, we need to report it to management. It is ultimately the employer’s responsibility to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. With all of the action around safety these days, there shouldn’t be any reason safety problems should continue to be unaddressed.


Although management has the responsibility to provide us a safe workplace, we have an obligation to ourselves and our brothers and sisters to see to it that those hazards are addressed. If a problem you’ve identified has not been corrected, or you have not heard when it will or will not be corrected, ask to see your UAW safety representative. Don’t be fooled by the imitation “representatives” the company has “appointed” to safety positions, get your concerns addressed in the procedure agreed to by the company and the union by asking for your UAW safety representative. If you don’t know who your rep is, ask your steward or grievance committee member, but don’t stop asking until you get the answer from the union.


Your UAW safety representatives have meetings monthly at the union hall where we discuss current health and safety events in the plants and learn more about how to prevent injuries and illnesses from happening. When you see your rep, ask them what the topics of the most recent meeting were, you’ll be surprised. I’m constantly amazed at the level of dedication I see from these people. At the meetings, your safety reps are like sponges, soaking up information and learning what has been successful and unsuccessful at other plants—AND THEY DO IT ON THEIR OWN TIME!!! You don’t have to wonder what motivates these people, it’s your well-being. 


So, the next time you see a safety problem in the shop that needs attention, give your supervisor a chance to correct it, and if it’s not addressed in what you feel is a timely manner, ask to see your UAW safety representative. As stated in 8.3 of the contract, “… the supervisor shall as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the employee’s next scheduled shift, send for your Safety Subcommitteeman…” If you ask and don’t get to see your safety rep, ask for the steward because you have the basis for a grievance.


In Solidarity,

Steve Mitchell