Union Files Complaint With OSHA over Ergonomics

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) filed a complaint today with OSHA, hoping to force the agency into taking action on ergonomics.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are tired of waiting. The union filed a complaint today with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hoping to force the agency into taking action on ergonomics.

In a statement released today, the union noted, "One year ago, American workers finally had the workplace protection of an ergonomics standard - for a mere 96 days. The Republican leadership in Congress and the Bush administration trashed the standard, betraying 10 years of scientific research, bipartisan cooperation and American workers suffering on the line every day."

The union added it pledged to its members it would take action and force OSHA to act on ergonomics.

"Since the political assassination of the ergonomic standard, more than 1 million workers have suffered needless ergonomic injuries," said UFCW President Doug Dority. "I promised that the UFCW would not wait for another standard and that we would begin immediately to organize and mobilize workers to file complaints with OSHA in cases where ergonomic hazards are crippling and injuring workers."

The UFCW held a press briefing as part of the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting today in New Orleans. It announced it will file a complaint with OSHA under the general duty clause that focuses on ergonomics injuries to workers at a Pilgrim''s Pride poultry plant in Lufkin, Texas.

"Workers with repetitive stress injuries at Pilgrim''s Pride Lufkin plant are given aspirin and ice and sent back to the production line," commented John Rodriguez, UFCW vice president.

"The majority of workers at the Lufkin plant, like most poultry plants, are new immigrants and minority workers. Companies exploit their fear and lack of information about workplace rights to silence their complaints and feed their own profits," he added. "Injuries go unreported and hazards go uncorrected. Well, the UFCW is breaking down that wall of silence at the Lufkin plant."

Back in June 2001, the Department of Labor announced it would hold three national public hearings on ergonomics beginning in July to determine whether to regulate - or not regulate - occupational hazards that cause repetitive motion injuries.

In addition, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who is scheduled to address the AFL-CIO executive council this afternoon, set herself a September deadline to identify the final course of action on the issue. Chao blames the events of Sept. 11 for throwing her off schedule. Rumors periodically surface that she is about to announce her plan to tackle the issue of ergonomics, though nothing has been released to date.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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