June 4, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

By Peter Dooley

The stories of injury and illness among workers at the Toyota Georgetown plant (reported in the Washington Post story this past week) remind us all about the plight of workers without representation in their workplace. Facing termination after an injury, being transferred to a less desirable job or being discriminated against for standing up for basic rights are daily occurrences in workplaces without unions or contracts to challenge a company’s one-party system of management. Health and safety is the clearest example of how this lack of representation becomes an infringement of human rights.

Auto manufacturing plants suffer some of the highest injury rates in the country, especially in repetitive strain injuries. Companies such as Toyota and Honda have horrendous records for burning workers out with their relentless “lean manufacturing” methods that put part output on a pedestal above the worker safety and health. This has resulted in a human toll of pain and injury that has gone largely under the radar screen. Several years ago, Honda plants reported injuries and illnesses approximately 4 to 5 times that of similar auto plants that did have a union (See New York Times: “Auto Union and Honda Dispute Safety Record at Plant in Ohio” (subscription only).) The fact is that these companies use injured workers as a way of trimming their workforces.

The public needs to be more aware of these problems and support workers in their attempts to organize.  Please support Toyota workers by signing the United Automobile Workers petition here. 

Peter Dooley, MS, CIH, CSP, works on occupational safety issues for the United Automobile Workers (UAW).

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