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The Non-Union Workplace

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Here’s what happens when workplaces don’t have unions.

An employee of Sewon America, an auto parts supplier for Kia, allegedly died Wednesday, May 29, after working in extreme heat on the company’s “project weld line” in LaGrange, according to another Sewon employee who spoke with LaGrange Citizen on conditions of anonymity.

Troup County Coroner Jeff Cook confirmed that Teresa Weaver Pickard, 42, of Wadley, Al., died after an emergency call came in indicating she was having trouble breathing. Her body has been sent to the state crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy, but the results could take three to four months because of a backlog in cases, Cook said.

The anonymous employee, who has worked at the LaGrange auto parts supplier for approximately two years, said that he initially heard about Pickard’s death from his supervisor, who advised Sewon employees to stay hydrated.

“I heard that [Pickard] complained of chest pain several times before she was sent to the break room,” said the employee. He said that the air conditioning on the assembly line is not working properly, workers are soaked in sweat, and several other workers also passed out last week due to the extreme heat.

He added that the air conditioning in the break room where Pickard was sent was not turned on and that management keeps the air off in the break room to discourage employees from loitering. It’s so hot in the break room that the candy in the vending machines melted, he said.

Weaver was finally sent to the front office, the employee said, where she allegedly sat for approximately three hours before an ambulance was finally called. He said he heard that Weaver died on the way to the hospital. He added that representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visited Sewon the day after Weaver died. (LaGrange Citizen has left two message with the OSHA Atlanta West office and will update this article as soon as possible.)

In 2010, OSHA fined Sewon $135,900 for a variety of violations. A drop in the bucket compared to the money Sewon brings in from Kia. The fines should be in the millions. As for this case, the supervisors involved and the corporate leaders setting policy need to be charged with manslaughter.

The AFL-CIO blog with more.

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