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Boiling Point: Why Do We Let Big Oil Send Workers to Their Deaths?

February 28, 2015 in Blogs

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Tikkun

We are experiencing a vast number of preventable deaths.

Picture this: You’re at the airport, about to board your flight. As you wait by the gate a pair of airline pilots chat nearby. They are your crew.

“I’m so exhausted,” says one, sipping a large coffee. “This’ll put me at 15 duty hours today. And I haven’t had a day off in a month – at least 12 hours every single day for the last 30 days. The stress is just killing me.”

“I know,” replies the other, yawning widely. “I haven’t really seen my family in a month. When I was driving home last night I could barely keep my eyes open. I hope I can do better on the flight tonight.”

Would you get on the plane? Of course not. The public wouldn’t buy tickets under these circumstances, which is why we have rigorously enforced laws against airlines overworking pilots.

But what if your job depended on getting on that plane? What if your job depended on boarding that plane not just once, but every day – would you get on it?

That’s the choice workers whose products we consume every day have been forced to make. They are refinery workers, subjected to Big Oil’s penchant for working people beyond exhaustion in the name of profits. The jobs inside refineries and cockpits, though of course technically dissimilar, share a common intolerance for error. But we have strict laws governing the safety of airline pilots, while the inhumane overwork of refinery workers proceeds largely within the shadows of our economy, outside of our view and beyond our daily consciences.

That may be changing, however.

Currently more than 6,000 oil refinery workers and their families are walking picket lines, the first national oil walkout since 1980. Workplace safety is the main issue – for the workers and their families, as well as for communities surrounding refineries. In the coming weeks the number of strikers could swell.

In exposing unsafe working conditions to the public, the refinery workers are raising not only contract demands, but also a deeper challenge about the …read more


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