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Is the Budget More Important Than Employees Exposed to TB?
According to a very reliable source, on Tuesday, August 2, 2011, when the employees showed up for work at the United States Postal Service's Los Angeles International Service Center (LAXISC), they were greeted by a note on the time clock instructing them to gather in the main conference room at 3:30 p.m. After all of the employees assembled, along with some military personnel and personnel from the Center for Disease Control, they were informed by the plant manager, a Mr. Holden, that they had been exposed to tuberculosis. They were told that an employee had contracted the disease about a year earlier and they had just been informed by the CDC.
According to the source, Mr. Holden then went on to inform the employees that only "high risk" personnel would be tested. When he was asked why wasn't everyone being tested, the manager indicated that the budget precluded them from testing everyone, but if they had any concerns they should contact their private physicians and arrange to be tested. Thereafter, a they tested all of the managers and just a few of the employees that they considered high risk.
The source also indicated that the APWU's presence was all but nonexistent at the meeting. The source said:
"The local president, John Driver, and none of the local officers bothered to come to the meeting. Instead, the treasurer, Darryl Brown, came and did not even ask any questions or voice any concerns about the situation. Is this what our president and local think of us whereas we are not even important enough for them to be present to see about our safety and welfare regarding an employee being diagnosed with TB that we all may have come in contact with and may even have exposed our families to?"
Subsequently, it was found that the employee that caused the exposure died on July 8, 2011. Of twenty-six employees tested as of last week, thirteen tested positive.
Here are a few questions begging to be asked:
1. If thirteen of the twenty-six employees that's been tested so far tested positive, wouldn't it be prudent to put budgetary concerns aside, if for no other reason than to protect the health of the employees, and their family, friends, and neighbors?
2. Since all of the employees at that facility were potentially exposed to TB on the job, why do they have to incur the expense of going to their own physician? Isn't that considered a job related hazard, and isn't it the postal service's responsibility to protect the job-related threat to the health and safety of it's employees and their families?
3. Since all of the employees worked in one facility and the postal service has no idea how the employees came into contact with one another in commons areas, lunchrooms, restrooms, etc. How did they determine who "high risk?"
4. How does the postal service justify testing all of management and not the employees who are in much closer contact with one another?
5. Where's OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration - in all of this? Don't they have a role in seeing to it that the postal service doesn't give their budget priority over the safety, health, and welfare of their employees?
6. And where are the unions? Why aren't they in there demanding that the postal service test every employee in that facility to ensure that they are free of a virulent disease that can kill not only them, but their children?
This situation is a prime example of the fact that apathy on the part of the American people has allowed both the business community, and our government, to write the poor and middle-class off as expendable and secondary to profits. We see it everywhere, including on the battlefield, with the endless wars that use poor and middle-class troops as cannon fodder to promote the interests of war profiteers and oil companies. As we speak the oil companies are rushing into Lybia to divide up the spoils that poor and middle-class troops have died for while thinking they were defending the interests of our country.
And the irony is, the children of the people who benefit most from the death of the poor and middle class troops, the rich, are no longer even expected to defend this country. The very same is true of the 29 coal miners who died in West Virginia on April 5, 2010. Hubpages.com reported:
"29 COAL MINERS DIE in COAL MINING EXPLOSION
The Massey Energy Company of Montcoal, West Virginia ignored violations and warnings that the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine which they own, was not safe for coal miners to be working in."
Then just weeks later, on April 20, 2010, eleven oil workers were killed in a horrific explosion on an oil rig run by British Petroleum. In the aftermath of the disaster The Daily Beast reported:
"A document obtained by The Daily Beast shows that BP, in a previous fatal disaster, increased worker risk to save money."
Now we see the United States Postal Service all but ignoring the possibility that their employees could take a deadly and virulent disease home to their families, neighbors, and friends - and with the employee unions standing by watching this unconscionable, atrocious, and flagrant act of irresponsibility. What more do we have to see to understand that it's time for American workers to stand up and retake control of their lives?
It's time for American workers to wake up and begin to realize that their apathy is allowing them to be written off as expendable. It's past time for them to change that by using the political clout of their numbers to make themselves heard. It's time for them to realize that they're knee-deep in a class war that they're losing badly. If they are to survive, poor and middle-class workers must begin to understand that they will never again be secure in their jobs and way of life until they come together to ensure that their politicians, union officials, and managers are insecure in theirs.
Eric L. Wattree
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)