A Race to the Bottom for Auto Parts Workers

An auto parts worker and a tire.

From OurFuture:

By Dave Johnson

Some states have cut worker safety protections and made it difficult for unions to do their job. They say they do this to attract jobs and businesses. What they are really doing is hurting human beings in their race to the bottom, and the nation is following their lead.

Lowering Wage And Safety Standards

What happens when a state lowers wage and safety standards and keeps unions out to attract jobs? Peter Waldman at Bloomberg BusinessWeek took a look at Alabama, where auto parts makers like Ajin USA and the Matcor-Matsu Group Inc. have set up shop to service the automakers like Kia and Hyundai in the state. The results are are even worse than you might imagine.

Waldman profiles workers like 20-year-old Regina Elsea, who worked 12-hour shifts for Ajin at $8.75 an hour, seven days a week, in the hopes of moving from temporary to full time status. What happened instead? She was pinned against a steel dashboard frame by an out-of-control robot, and killed.

He also profiles Cordney Crutcher, who lost his left pinkie when a hole puncher misfired and caught him off guard at the end of a 12-hour shift.

He was put on a press that had been acting up all day. It worked fine until he was 10 parts away from finishing, and then a cast-iron hole puncher failed to deploy. Crutcher didn’t realize it. Suddenly the puncher fired and snapped on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.

Why do workers face such dangerous conditions? Waldman explains.

Parts suppliers in the American South compete for low-margin orders against suppliers in Mexico and Asia. They promise delivery schedules they can’t possibly meet and face ruinous penalties if they fall short. Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant, and of course, if the injured can find a lawyer in a state where “tort reform” has limited access to the courts, how much good does a bit of money do? ‘I’d rather have my arm back any day,’ Allen says.

You get the idea. When governments remove regulations and protections to be “pro business” the result is that the people the government is supposed to be watching out for are endangered, and they take more risks in exchange for lower pay. This is what happens when a government becomes corrupted and no longer operates as the agent of the people, and instead operates to facilitate profit for a few.

Note that the Trump administration is working to cut protections and regulations nationally, including cutting out the OSHA record-keeping rule. Interfaith Worker Justice warns that the Labor Department is cutting job and safety training programs “that will affect the most vulnerable Americans.”

Read full article from OurFuture.