The Widdershins

Friday Post ~ A little dis ‘n dat

Posted on: April 28, 2017

A good Friday to you Widdershins!

With Prolix’s laptop giving up the ghost on him and tin cans and string not working well for internet connectivity, Fredster here is going to do a post in his absence.  Prolix has been kind enough to take a post or two for me, so reciprocating is fine with me.  But as one of the tags to the post says, “Not Prolix”, so don’t hold me to that standard…puhleeze!

In some of my readings around the internet I found articles that I thought were interesting and so I bookmarked them for future reference.  I think that will work out just fine today.  This isn’t exactly current events, nor earth shattering, but something I found interesting and perhaps you will also.

* * * *

The topic I want to cover is from Bloomberg Busisnessweek and concerns the auto manufacturing  and auto parts manufacturing companies that have come to some of the southern states and in this case to Alabama.  The piece is subtitled “Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs“.  And that is about right.

Bama’s experiences with the auto manufacturing business began when the state was able to entice Mercedes Benz to build an assembly plant near Tuscaloosa Alabama.  “In 1997…That gleaming M-Class SUV was historic. Alabama, the nation’s fifth-poorest state, had wagered a quarter-billion dollars in tax breaks and other public giveaways to land the first major Mercedes factory outside Germany.”  I don’t know this personally but I’m sure the employees at that plant have decent wages and working conditions because: German company.  And after that initial company, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai opened their own assembly plants in Bama.  The car assembly plants opened in other southern states too; Tennessee and Georgia as examples.  And one reason the plants came was because most of these states are right-to-work states.  U.A.W. ?  Nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ unions here.  And after the car assembly plants, the parts suppliers started opening up in the state.

The parts supplier companies are usually foreign-owned and supply the parts for the assembly plants.  And though the companies may both be from South Korea, there’s no love lost between them.  The assembly plants have contracts with the parts plants and have very fixed quotas on how many widgets for a car those plants must make or they’ll be penalized.  So those suppliers take chances and cut corners, and the corners usually involve worker safety.

Take the case of Regina Elsea.  She had great plans, was going to attend Auburn University with desires to be a pediatrician.  But love called in the form of her kindergarten sweetheart who was a stocker at a local Walmart.  Regina dropped out of school so they both could work to get a place of their own.  She got a job at the Ajin plant which made parts for Hyundai and Kia cars.  Regina was working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week in an effort to go from temporary paying $8.75/hr. to full time permanent with a raise to $10.50/hr.   Here’s what happened to Regina one day:

On June 18, Elsea was working the day shift when a computer flashed “Stud Fault” on Robot 23. Bolts often got stuck in that machine, which mounted pillars for sideview mirrors onto dashboard frames. Elsea was at the adjacent workstation when the assembly line stopped. Her team called maintenance to clear the fault, but no one showed up.


After several minutes, Elsea grabbed a tool—on the video it looks like a screwdriver—and entered the screened-off area around the robot to clear the fault herself. Whatever she did to Robot 23, it surged back to life, crushing Elsea against a steel dashboard frame and impaling her upper body with a pair of welding tips. A co-worker hit the line’s emergency shut-off. Elsea was trapped in the machine—hunched over, eyes open, conscious but speechless.

(No one knew how to release the robot)

A team leader raced to get a maintenance worker in the break room.  But the maintenance worker worked in a different part of the plant and wasn’t familiar with this equipment.

When emergency crews arrived several minutes later, Elsea was still stuck. The rescue workers finally did what Elsea had failed to do: locked out the machine’s emergency power switch so it couldn’t reenergize again—a basic precaution that all factory workers are supposed to take before troubleshooting any industrial robot. Ajin, according to OSHA, had never given the workers their own safety locks and training on how to use them, as required by federal law. Ajin is contesting that finding.

An ambulance took Regina to a local hospital and then to a trauma center in Birmingham where she died the next day.  Regina’s mom says she still hasn’t heard a word from Ajin’s owners or senior executives. They sent a single artificial flower to her funeral.

Regina’s isn’t the only horror story involving these supplier companies where the goal is “meet the quota or we lose money or we’ll be penalized”.  Some more examples:

  • A man had worked a 12 hour shift but was summoned to work on a metal press  The press had not been working well all day.  A hole puncher didn’t deploy and then it did…at the wrong time – on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.
  • In 2015, a 33-year-old maintenance worker was engulfed in flames at Nakanishi Manufacturing Corp.’s bearing plant in Winterville, Ga.—after four previous fires in the factory’s dust-collection system.
  • A man working at a plant supplying parts for Mercedes Benz was working cleaning ventilation ducts over dipping pools of acid used to anodize the parts. There were no handrails, gangways or cables. He was working one day cleaning the ducts and “His hands slipped, and he tumbled backward into a vat of sulfuric and phosphoric acid 4 feet deep.”

OSHA (under Obama) began noticing this and cracking down:

The agency cited one year, 2010, when workers in Alabama parts plants had a 50 percent higher rate of illness and injury than the U.S. auto parts industry as a whole. That gap has narrowed, but the incidence of traumatic injuries in Alabama’s auto parts plants remains 9 percent higher than in Michigan’s and 8 percent higher than in Ohio’s. In 2015 the chances of losing a finger or limb in an Alabama parts factory was double the amputation risk nationally for the industry, 65 percent higher than in Michigan and 33 percent above the rate in Ohio.

From David Michaels who headed OSHA under President Obama:

“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)

Michaels in a meeting with the car companies themselves said to them:

“I gave them a very strong message: ‘This brings shame on your reputation. American consumers are not going to want to buy cars stained with the blood of American workers,’ ”

Summing all of this up:

When Trump suits and ties are made in Mexico and when Ivanka’s clothes are made in sweat shops in Asia, do we really believe that any of these situations are going to improve?  MAGA indeed.

* * * *

Okay Widdershins I hope this wasn’t too boring or snooze-worthy.  And also I violated Prolix’s 800 word rule by about 400 extra words.  Yikes!  Please take the conservation in any direction you wish.



44 Responses to "Friday Post ~ A little dis ‘n dat"

Just FYI guys I’ll be away all weekend! Visiting my sister in Phoenix, not bringing my laptop with me!

As Buffy once said: “If the apocalypse comes… beep me!”

Fredster, dynamite post on a very important topic! I had two relatively minor on-the-job injuries happen. First one was relatively straightforward and not much problem taking care of it. The second time was at a small privately owned national corporation with an excellent reputation for being a good place to work at. Suddenly my job evals dropped, my supervisor backtracked on stuff he’d told me earlier, and the $400 adaptive equipment I requested for reasonable accommodation to do my job was denied on the grounds that “it wouldn’t work” although it had a free monthly trial period, and I had an example of someone in a similar position at another company using it successfully. After much unpleasantness with lawyers after they fired me, and then contesting when I filed for unemployment, they ended up having to pay me a paltry sum under worker’s comp. When I contested their contesting my unemployment claim, the judge was obviously buddies with their lawyer. I was still relatively young then and expected people to be fairly honest — the whole situation was highly stressful. OTOH, it was trivial compared to loss of limb or life.

Now as a healthcare provider I occasionally have to write documentation for my patients who need reasonable accommodation, or time off from work for medical reasons. I take great delight in writing sternly worded letters to their employers, loaded with multisyllabic medical terms. I may even chuckle to myself while doing so.

In Washington state we’re familiar with Boeing moving much of their manufacturing and assembly work to other states. This is a right-to-fire state, but with a relatively strong union presence. One of the Boeing corporate guys is on record as wanting to move operations away, no matter how expensive, just to lose the union. And indeed moving their “Dreamsmoker” (the jets with the sudden fire problems) ops to a location with a less-skilled and less-experienced workforce did cost them more in delays and overruns than if they’d stayed.

@1: DYB enjoy your trip!

My goodness with you and Prolix gone it will be very quiet around the TW homefront.

@2: Luna, I’ll never be one to say all unions are great, blah blah, but they have played an important role in worker safety.

I take great delight in writing sternly worded letters to their employers, loaded with multisyllabic medical terms. I may even chuckle to myself while doing so.

Good for you! 🙂

@2: You may call me picky but when I have to ride in one of those aluminum tubes hurtling through the air at over 500 mph, I really would prefer to have it built by the folks who have a lot of experience building those things.

God, what a heartbreaking story. Overall, unless a company has that rare thing–a generous and compassionate boss, like my late step-dad was, I think Unions are a good thing.

Luna, love your comment. Thank you for defending workers!

@5, Hear hear!

DYB, hope you have a terrific visit with your sister!

GAgal, check email when you have a chance.

Fredster, love the picture of the cute little bookstore. I’ve always loved used bookstores. I remember when you used to do your funny weekend posts with various oddball stories. Those were fun! Feel free to bring those back when you’re in the mood.

@6: I do agree with you annie. And wherever it’s been possible I have always joined the union at work. For me as a federal employee the union was A.F.G.E. American Federation of Government Employees. We could not go on strike or anything but we could do “informational picketing” during non-work periods like lunch time and such.

@9: Oh I probably will do the odd news thing again. It’s just that when I read this article I knew I wanted to write something about it. I think a lot of folks believe that companies send out jobs to Mexico for cheap labor, but aren’t aware of how we do the same thing here.

I didn’t go into a lot of detail because the post was running long, but one of the people was working as a janitor or something at one of these plants because a family member had told him it was a dangerous place to work and not to work in the manufacturing sections. Well, the manager literally grabbed him and said “here you’re going to do this for 8 hrs.”. A few minutes of training and that was it. It might have been the one with the metal press. All for the princely sum of $8 or $9/hr. And of course the companies can say “oh we pay more than minimum wage”, but barely and at what cost to the people who work there.

@11, very true, I didn’t know about those companies going to the South for cheap labor. This country is ruled by greed. It sickens me.

@12: A good number of these auto companies just love the fact that they are in right-to-work states and there are no unions. And they seem to go to these small towns where folks will just jump at that $8.75/hr or $9 or $10/hr because there’s nothing else around.

Interesting coincidence:

@14: I wasn’t even aware of that.

I hope Gavin is right about this:

Funny or Die: Ivanka gets booed in Germany.

Actual footage of United employees handling the bunny that they killed!

Excellent Rude Pundit piece here. Almost a “stop and smell the roses” type thing.

That RP piece was very interesting. I’ve only been to Reno twice, once when I was 17, & my Mom, sibs & I went on a road trip, and again a year later when older sis & I were flown up by her former bf to attend a wild New Years Eve party at a big house on Lake Tahoe. I will never forget it as long as I live.

@21: I enjoyed that piece, a slice of real life folks and they have survived the 1st 100 days, and so perhaps they and we will survive the next 100.

I had a friend who worked at the VA Reg’l Office in Reno. He said the little town got old very quickly. Of course Steve wasn’t into skiing or anything like that. He even said the gambling got old after awhile. LOL

@8 Back at’cha, Fredster.

It’s just unreal that these companies let it happen over and over. (and they are allowed to) They’d rather pay fines and settlements than spend it on safety measures. And not even bother to hold trainings! When the young woman stepped into the cage, there should have been an automatic shut down of power or something. I can’t believe the guy who fell in the acid vat survived!

Oh Joe, you came so close here. Biden is getting lots of praise for his bluntness, but ‘dead drunk’ just makes me cringe.

“Guys, a woman who is dead drunk cannot consent — You are raping her!” he said. “We’ve got to talk about this. Consent requires affirmative consent!”

@26, of course this is after a big chunk of the logging industry went under after they clearcut most of the forestlands. Logging has a hideously high rate of worker injuries.

@26: And I swear it was just serendipity or something that I did this for today.

@24: GAgal, they probably have it all figured out that even if they are fined every once in awhile, that is cheaper than paying for any additional safety features beyond what they absolutely minimally have to have.

And yeah, the guy in the vat of acid. I just cringed when I read that. Horrible!

luna said: Logging has a hideously high rate of worker injuries.

Gawd, how could it not!

I’m going to share a thought with y’all. Just something that crossed my mind concerning Prolix and his laptop.

I think what really happened with his laptop was that he was reading something about the New York Times or WaPo going out to interview some more disgruntled people who voted for Trump, and that was it. That right there pushed him over and I think this is what he looked like right before he grabbed the top piece/screen of the laptop, ripped it off…stomped on it three or four times and pitched it out the window. And then he took a hammer to the keyboard part and then just started beating the hell out of it. Poor laptop didn’t have a chance.

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

Because hiding it from view will make the science go away. Got it.

@31 LOL I’ve come closer to doing something like that with my TV than my computer! This whole week my internet has been so slow. Also, if I want to do something – anything- like post a comment it takes three times. It’s like my computer is saying ‘are you sure’? Then, ‘are you really sure’?

@33: Didn’t they have to come do some work on your internet stuff awhile back? You may need them to come check it out.

Yay for doxie power!!

@32, pathetic.

Hilarious about people reporting E.T.’s to dumps site! Dump’s first 100 Days have been like the drama masks of comedy and tragedy, haven’t they? One minute, we’re super depressed, then shrieking with laughter.

I was really looking forward to the peace and prosperity we would have gotten with Hillary. 😦

@36, That Doxie is darling! And the horse was so sweet. Laker & I both loved that, thanks for sharing it!

I’ve got a new post scheduled for 1 pm today, y’all.

@ 38 Annie, that’s so true. It’s like a roller coaster. One minute you’re cruising along enjoying it and the next – you’re terrified. And screaming.

@38: Amen about the peace and prosperity.

@39: I was just chuckling watching that doxie and the horse for going along with it.

@40: Looking forward to it!

@36, so cute!

@43: New post up top. Closing comments here.

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