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Can’t Take No More

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“Can’t Take No More,” a 1980 film about workplace health and safety narrated by Studs Terkel is just incredible and very much worth watching, both for its footage of early 20th century workplaces as well as its discussion of contemporary issues and how OSHA empowered workers.

The film takes on an optimistic tone. But already by 1980, corporations were moving their plants from the United States to Mexico, Taiwan, and South Korea, and later to Honduras, Bangladesh, and China precisely to recreate the days of the Triangle Fire, when they could profit handsomely off workplace death without any repercussions. Americans suffer from a lot less workplace disease than they used to, but that’s because Americans have a lot less steady work. Ultimately, it will take internationally enforceable workplace health and safety standards, with workers around the world able to sue companies in the corporate country of origin, to make corporations accountable. Maybe one day, if I live long enough, I might see that.

This is also a good time to note that just yesterday, OSHA issued new regulations on silica that could save up to 700 lives a year by preventing silicosis, a disease that plays a big role in “Can’t Take No More.”

….IB in comments: “People talk a lot about the Supreme Court (very sensibly) and war-and-peace (a little less so, sad to say) as reasons to keep voting for Democratic presidential candidates, but honestly it’s things like those OSHA regs on silica that have led me to hold my nose and support the Lesser Evil presidential candidate. On the margin, lives are on the line.”

Could not say it better myself. When people say that the two parties are the same or say we should throw our votes to Republicans because of this or that issue they’ve decided is the one who matters, I say they are showing the privilege to ignore the consequences of the issues the two parties are in fact quite different on, such as workplace safety. No McCain or Romney administration would be issuing those new silica regulations. That stuff matters a lot.

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