Ditching Child Labor Laws; Honeywell Looking to Escape Liability; Machinists Reject Boeing Contract

Mike Elk

A young child farm worker hard at work in a cotton field. (Louise Boyle / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Last year, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion ditched a pro­pos­al for new work­place safe­ty rules that would have pro­tect­ed chil­dren from doing some of the most haz­ardous agri­cul­tur­al jobs. In an arti­cle for The Nation, Mariya Strauss reports on the child farm­work­ers who have died since that rule was abandoned:

In the end, I found thir­ty-nine cas­es of injury or death over the last year and a half involv­ing 12- to 15-year-olds work­ing in agri­cul­ture. About a third — eleven in all — worked on their par­ents’ prop­er­ty and would not have been pro­tect­ed under the pro­posed rules, which con­tained an exemp­tion for kids work­ing on a fam­i­ly farm. But at least twelve kids under 16 were injured and four died doing tasks that would have been pro­hib­it­ed under the rules … But the cas­es I gath­ered don’t reflect the oth­er states that advo­cates say are like­ly to have the high­est num­ber of young farm­work­ers: Texas, Michi­gan, Iowa, North Car­oli­na and Wash­ing­ton State.

The cas­es I did find includ­ed 15-year-old Curvin Kropf, an Amish boy from Deer Grove, Illi­nois, who was killed in July 2012. Accord­ing to the sheriff’s report, Kropf died after he leaned from his seat atop a tall, trac­tor-like vehi­cle called a High-Boy to pull the tas­sels off a stalk of corn, fell and was crushed under the vehicle’s wheel. Accord­ing to local press reports, OSHA offi­cials arrived at the scene but left because there were few­er than ten work­ers on the farm, which meant they lacked juris­dic­tion … Anoth­er pre­ventable death was that of 18-year-old Kyle Beck of Wauseon, Ohio, who was killed when he fell beneath a wag­on full of grain that was being pulled by a 15-year-old dri­ving a trac­tor, which would not have been allowed under the pro­posed rules.

Last week, Work­ing In These Times report­ed on an employ­ee fridge test­ing pos­i­tive for ura­ni­um at Hon­ey­well’s ura­ni­um con­ver­sion facil­i­ty in Metrop­o­lis, Ill. This week Bloomberg has an expose on how Hon­ey­well is push­ing a bill that would lim­it the com­pa­ny’s lia­bil­i­ty for expos­ing work­ers to anoth­er tox­ic chem­i­cal — asbestos. From Bloomberg:

Hon­ey­well Inter­na­tion­al Inc. (HON), whose polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee donates more mon­ey than any oth­er cor­po­rate PAC, and the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, which spends more to lob­by Con­gress than any­one else, saw long-sought leg­is­la­tion on asbestos claims advance in Con­gress today.

The leg­is­la­tion, H.R. 982, would impose new dis­clo­sure require­ments on trusts set up to pay vic­tims of asbestos-relat­ed ill­ness­es. The House passed the bill 221 – 199.

Pro­po­nents say the new reports will cut down on fraud by allow­ing com­pa­nies such as Hon­ey­well to eas­i­ly dis­cov­er if a per­son suing them also col­lect­ed dam­ages from a trust for the same ill­ness; oppo­nents argue that the goal is to let com­pa­nies delay pay­ments to those dying of mesothe­lioma and oth­er cancers.

Under threat of los­ing their job, 30,000 Boe­ing work­ers in Seat­tle vot­ed down a con­ces­sion­ary con­tract. From Labor Notes:

Machin­ists at Boe­ing resound­ing­ly vot­ed down mid-con­tract con­ces­sions yes­ter­day and then booed the union lead­ers who had pushed the pro­pos­al on a shocked membership.

Their con­tract doesn’t expire until 2016, but the com­pa­ny is threat­en­ing to move pro­duc­tion of the huge new 777X air­craft out of Wash­ing­ton state to avoid the union.

Boe­ing even promised $10,000 apiece upon approval, but the work­ers didn’t take the bait, oppos­ing the scheme by 67 percent.

What hap­pens when taxi-cab dri­vers orga­nize, and city offi­cials say they won’t hear their com­plaints because they can’t under­stand their accent? Dave Jamieson at the Huff­in­g­ton Post has the story:

Lat­er in the video, com­mis­sion­er Paul Cohn says the com­mis­sion is requir­ing writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ny because many D.C. cab­bies have a poor grasp of Eng­lish. A lot of the city’s dri­vers are immi­grants from Ethiopia and elsewhere.

The rea­son we are ask­ing for writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ny is because a lot of our cab dri­vers have dif­fi­cul­ty with our lan­guage,” Cohn says. It’s very dif­fi­cult for us to under­stand some of the peo­ple who tes­ti­fy. It’s eas­i­er for us to read along.”

In a state­ment, the Team­sters called the stip­u­la­tion an ille­gal, dis­crim­i­na­to­ry requirement.”

A char­ter school in Detroit named after Cesar Chavez is in trou­ble with its union. From the Detroit News:

Dozens of union­ized school employ­ees, par­ents and stu­dents gath­ered in the cafe­te­ria of Cesar Chavez Acad­e­my Mid­dle School for a sched­uled school board meet­ing that was to include dis­cus­sion of the bud­get for the four-cam­pus Cesar Chavez Academy.

Only two of the five school board mem­bers attend­ed the meet­ing, pre­vent­ing a quo­rum, and the meet­ing was can­celed. The board meets next Dec. 12.

The union, Cesar Chavez Acad­e­my Alliance of Char­ter Teach­ers and Staff, claims the acad­e­my and Leona Group, a nation­wide edu­ca­tion­al man­age­ment com­pa­ny that pro­vides admin­is­tra­tive ser­vices for the school, vio­lat­ed the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act by not bar­gain­ing over staffing deci­sions with the union.

The Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Machin­ists (IAM) is a spon­sor of In These Times.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Work­ing In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is cur­rent­ly a labor reporter at Politico.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH