workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Only direct action can save workers’ lives

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the demolition continued even though the building’s owner had written city officials warning that “This nonsense must end before someone is seriously injured or worse: those are headlines none of us want to see or read.” STB Investments was upset because the Salvation Army, which owned the adjacent property, had rejected its efforts to purchase and demolish the building and was insisting on protections for its store and its contents during the demolition process. When the Salvation Army would not agree to STB’s terms, it evidently proceeded to proceed in what it itself had warned was a highly dangerous manner, with the result that several people were killed. Neither the city nor the Salvation Army stepped in to force a halt to this reckless behavior, though the demolition site was visited by city and federal safety inspectors.

Last week, in Central Philadelphia, a building in the process of demolition by a low-bid, non-union contractor collapsed, killing six people in an adjacent thrift store and injuring many more. It appears that the collapse was caused by a failure to follow standard procedures including bracing the walls, and by using heavy equipment to knock down the structure without regard for the safety of those nearby.

Working In These Times has a report that OSHA was called in to the pre-collapse building site by union workers (at a nearby job) concerned by what they saw, but the Agency failed to shut down the job despite unsafe conditions that were obvious to the union workers (and now to all of us). Relying on government agencies to protect us against the bosses is a dangerous game — the responsible thing (and it would have saved lives, but been roundly condemned by the boss press) would have been for the union to organize a flying squad to go in and shut the job down:

This is what comes of relying on government regulators to protect our lives. It would have been far better if the union members, having noticed the unsafe conditions, had marched on the job site and shut it down through direct action. Then six of our fellow workers would still be alive, though of course the boss press would have screamed about union thuggery and the gumpets would have demanded that we work through “proper channels.” But our fellow workers would still be alive, and the bosses would have been taught a valuable lesson — that there are limits to their callous disregard for our lives and our planet.


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