A recent newspaper article about a Nebraska lawyer fighting against imposing OSHA regulations on small businesses and farms that handle grain illustrates an age-old conflict between Worker (human) safety and Business (corporate) profit. The lawyer argued OSHA compliance is too expensive for small businesses and farms.
I couldn’t disagree more. From my point of view, worker safety is immeasurably more valuable to society than business profit. Human beings are the most important component of any activity, including business. Viewing safety as a cost ignores the cost to the human beings who are burned and maimed by grain explosions, whether they happen at a small business/farm or a huge corporate grain facility.
Farms in Nebraska and Iowa are not required to provide workers’ compensation for their employees. This is justified on the grounds that farms can’t survive such government intervention. I find this an interesting argument from businesses that have long received subsidies from the government. It seems that farm profits are more important than the human beings who do the work to earn those profits.
Our society needs more laws to protect human beings from injury and to compensate them if injured for the profit of others. Candidates for public office need to be asked what matters more to them: Is it human beings or profits that matter more?
Justice Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote long ago: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
If we keep electing representatives who favor the concentrated wealth, then human beings will likely be protected less. These are scary times as the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” continues to grow. Ballots are the only way to tell our representatives that the health and welfare of human beings is paramount. Voting is essential, or we will see more and more concern for profit and less and less concern for human beings.
Nebraska held a primary election last week. Our television, radio and social media networks were flooded with messages from big-business organizations with little or no connection to our state. Millions of dollars poured in from nameless, faceless donors from other states.
Injured workers, their families and people who care about injured workers should be concerned about this.
Big-business groups generally do not support candidates and laws that are good for injured workers. These groups push for limitations in benefits, limitations on health care, and judges with business-favorable histories.
The general election this fall will be important because many state senators who have been great friends and protectors of injured workers are going to be replaced by new senators. Workers need to pay attention to the candidates and learn whether the candidates stand for the working people or the big businesses.
Vote for the candidates who care more about injured people than business profits.