Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gonna be some changes made

Regular readers of this site know that I tend to steer clear of dealing with touchy political and social issues here. Not that I don't like talking about them - I just tend to think that the web, for all its glories, is generally not the best forum.

I am making an exception today, because in this case, I think that spreading information to as many people as possible can only help.

TRW has a plant in Mount Vernon, at which the health and safety conditions are such that over 1/4 of the plant's workers have suffered serious respiratory problems. The metalworking fluid used in the manufacturing process gets airborn and into the workers' lungs, due in part to woefully inadequate ventilation. The bulk of people started getting sick in 2000, but people are still coming down with symptoms, and dozens of the original group are on disability. From the Columbus Dispatch story about it:

They opened overhead doors. Management closed them. They opened the doors again. Management chained them shut.

Workers turned on the exhaust fans, which had been shut off to save money. Management added locks to the switch boxes. Workers sawed off the locks. Management took out the fuses.

And this:
The workers say the odorous atmosphere took more than their breath away.

For some, it took away their ability to support their families, their pride, their future.

One sick worker, distraught over his condition and convinced he had less than a year to live, killed himself.

The ill workers are left to pop steroids and suck on inhalers to prop open their damaged lungs while they fight for workers' compensation benefits and wonder if their lawsuit against TRW ever will get near a jury.

The once-pliable linings of their lungs are as stiff as work gloves, unable to effectively process oxygen because of an illness called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, HP for short.

Some suffer a more-serious lung condition called hypersensitivity induced reactive airway disease. Other workers have milder occupational asthma.

Simply put, many lack the breath to do much.

TRW has said they haven't violated any workplace-safety rules, and in a way they are correct because OSHA has no standards for use of metalworking fluid. These employees have been injured by their employee and ignored by the government agency that is supposed to protect them from just such treatment.

For ongoing information about the lawsuit and the protest, check out the site hosted by William Brandes Consulting. That site includes links to the news stories.

I am asking you, and your friends, and your family, and anybody you can talk into it, to boycott TRW automotive products. Doing this will not be easy - most people don't know what brand of brakes their car uses unless they installed them themselves - but asking questions of your mechanic or car dealer can't hurt. From the research I have done, it looks like TRW products are most frequently used in European car models (Audi, Volvo, and Volkswagen definitely do), but Ford seems to have done some business with them too, and there are probably others. If you have stock in TRW, dump it. I am also asking you to write to Patrick Stobb, director of TRW Investor Relations, tell him that you are boycotting, and why. His address is:

Patrick Stobb
Director, Investor Relations
12001 Tech Center Drive
Livonia, MI 48150

While you're at it, drop OSHA a line at

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210

Believe it or not, my goal is not to shut down the local TRW plant. Mount Vernon really cannot afford to lose the jobs, to be honest. What I want is for them to provide a safe workplace for their employees, to stand up and admit that they screwed up, and start to make things right.

Please help.


At 5:11 PM, Blogger Joe held forth...
Direct links to the Dispatch stories:

Gasping for Help: TRW workers' lungs damaged; government ignores health warnings

Workers urge TRW to clean up plant 

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