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Ear of drought-stricken corn in field
Can be shockingly dangerous.
Workers—including teenagers—continue to die smothered by grain, 26 of them in 2010 alone. The managers of grain storage facilities know the dangers, yet routinely send workers into grain bins to "walk down grain," breaking up clumps and knocking them off the walls, without safety equipment. Nobody is going to jail, and while OSHA often proposes big fines, it almost always cuts those fines way down in the end, for deaths that look like this:
“It created kind of a quicksand effect,” Piper said. “So we worked around it and we were aware of it, and after a while … Wyatt ended up getting caught up in it and started screaming for help. Me and Alex went in after him, and we each grabbed one side of him under his armpits and started dragging him out, and got pretty close to the edge of the quicksand and then we started sinking in with him.” [...]

“And it was just me and Alex standing there up to our chests completely, just trapped in the corn,” Piper said. “And Wyatt was underneath. I was hopeful that he was still alive, but at this point I’m pretty sure that he suffocated pretty quickly. The pressure underneath the corn was just too great.” [...]

The corn kept flowing around Piper and Pacas. “After a little bit [Pacas’s] hand was sticking up above the grain and I could just see his scalp, and his hand stopped moving,” Piper said. “And the corn was up to my chin at that point. And it was slowly trickling down … and I was about to be covered, too.”

The boys who died were 14 and 19 years old. Their employer was fined $68,125 for having workers too young for such hazardous labor, but a $555,000 fine from OSHA for 25 safety violations was cut down to just $200,000.

And more:

  • Hyatt Andaz housekeeper Cathy Youngblood is a rock star of activism.
  • Hot new(ish) thing in cab hailing Uber faces allegations of tip skimming.
  • Waves of school closings are hitting major cities including Chicago and Philadelphia, even though prior experience shows that the cost savings touted by supporters of school closings are often dramatically exaggerated. Valerie Strauss has a suggestion:
    Given that school reformers are always talking about the importance of giving parents “school choice,” you’d think they’d listen to the people who want their neighborhood schools saved. One way is to actually start to address the real reasons that many kids don’t perform well in school: Their lives. Living in poverty has consequences. Living in an unstable family has consequences.

    Why not turn under-enrolled schools into community schools?

  • As Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett slashes public higher education budgets in his state, one of those universities asked him to be its commencement speaker. Kevin Mahoney at Raging Chicken Press is trying to find out how Corbett was decided on for that role, but university officials really don't want to talk about it.
  • Walmart is suing the UFCW and other protesters in Florida for illegal trespassing. Guess those protests are getting under Walmart's skin.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 02:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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