The Bittersweet Taste of Exploitation: The Aftermath

Last summer I penned two articles, referenced below, related to the controversy surrounding the abuse of foreign student workers at a Hershey’s packing plant in Pennsylvania. Both posts were met with the expected knee jerk reactions from my friends on the far right, who tried, through convoluted logic, deflection and a reinterpretation of the facts, to in someway lay the problems at the feet of the Obama administration or to concoct a scenario wherein which the whole controversy was cooked up by the unions. Of course all of this was for naught and to further make that point I’m happy to present the latest news on this: “Hershey’s Packer Is Fined Over Its Safety Violations”, as proof positive that the grievances of the exploited workers at Hershey’s Palmyra packing plant where real, related to their employment and in no way a contrivance of some crafty local union official.
 
Lets take a look at the facts:
 
1) “After a six-month investigation prompted by the protests of student workers on an international exchange program, the Labor Department on Tuesday issued fines of $283,000 for health and safety violations against a company that operates a plant in Pennsylvania packing Hershey’s chocolates, saying it had covered up serious injuries to workers.”
 
2) “The 24-page citation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the company, Exel, intentionally failed to report 42 serious injuries over four years to workers at the plant in Palmyra, Pa., or 43 percent of all such injuries in that period at the plant.”
 
3) “The fines, which are high for workplace safety offenses, were levied because six of the nine violations were for willful failure by Exel to protect its workers. The agency did not say whether the injured workers included foreign students. It was very clear to us that dozens of injuries had not been recorded,” David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA, said Tuesday. “Exel understood exactly what the law was on reporting. They were aware of these other injuries, and they just did not record them. Dr. Michaels said that although Exel had been cited primarily for lapses in its records, the failures were serious because they undermined OSHA’s ability to monitor work conditions at the plant. “It’s not just paperwork,” he said. “It’s lives and limbs. The requirement to keep track of injuries is the basis for prevention of those injuries.”

4) “Labor officials said they had found an e-mail in which Exel managers explicitly decided not to provide audio protection for workers in the noisy plant, even though they were aware of the problem. OSHA issued a letter on Tuesday to Exel saying that workers faced “ergonomic risk factors” from lifting and reaching for boxes, and urged a broad redesign of the packing process.”

So there you have it, the bottom line is simply this, and people don’t walk out en masse from a jobsite when they’re happy with their work, their pay and their personal safety. Moreover, few folks if any, particularly college educated people, are likely to fall for a union ruse and thereafter walk off of a job. This is particularly true when they’re guest workers who are here for a summer job and not permanent employees with a long term stake in the working conditions in a particular plant. And yes the Palmyra plant was run by a subcontractor and was staffed with foreign students via an outfit called SHS Staffing Solutions but so what? In the final analysis my conservative friends would have been better off just admitting the facts were in favor of the protestors and with that moving on to the next battle. To do otherwise has been proven to be a waste of time and effort which yielded nothing in the way of proving a point that couldn’t be proven in the first place.

S.J. Gulitti

2/26/12

Sources: 

Hershey’s Packer Is Fined Over Its Safety Violations; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/us/hersheys-packer-fined-by-labor-department-for-safety-violations.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
 
Oh the Bittersweet Taste of Exploitation; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/08/20/oh_the_bittersweet_taste_of_exploitation
 
Bittersweet Taste of Exploitation: A Postscript; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/08/28/bittersweet_taste_of_exploitation_a_postscript