A public workshop, “Self-Defense on the Job: Understanding Labor and Industries,” will be from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 to commemorate Workers Memorial Day. The event, to be held at the Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 1st Ave., is sponsored by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS). The suggested donation for participants is $10; a sliding scale is available for low-income participants and work exchanges are possible.
The inspiration for the workshop came after OWLS activists spent several weeks on the picket line in solidarity with striking workers at Davis Wire in Auburn.
“We learned the company was forcing employees to work 12 hour days for months at a time, often with no lunch breaks,” said Linda Averill, an activist in OWLS. Many strikers had mangled finger and hands from poorly-maintained, antiquated machinery. Poor-ventilation was another problem. Such harsh conditions had injured hundreds of workers, and even killed some over the last several years, she noted.
“In this dismal economic climate, too many employers behave like Davis Wire, and don’t believe safety laws apply to them. We want to give workers some tools to better defend themselves and fight back,” Averill said.
The April 27 workshop will give participants a better understanding of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, and concrete tools to respond to workplace hazards and injuries. Safety hygienist Buck Cameron will facilitate the workshop and Scott Reiquam, Region 2 Safety Compliance Manager with the Department of Labor and Industries, will assist.
“Workers will learn to look at the workplace as a whole by looking beyond just one particular hazard,” Cameron said. “They will be encouraged to look at the work place in sectors to see what other safety hazards exist and collaborate with their fellow workers to try to get at the root causes of unsafe conditions.”
Viona Latschaw, Director of Project Help, will give basic instruction for empowering the injured workers and summarize how Project Help assists all interested parties in the L&I claims process.
The workshop concludes with a panel of worker activists speaking on safety issues in their work places, challenges facing injured workers, and strategies to win better conditions in the face of employer retaliation.
OWLS is an organization of rank-and-file activists from several different unions, as well as workers trying to unionize their workplace. OWLS is dedicated to helping labor revive its fighting spirit, and encouraging workers to militantly protect their collective economic interests and rights on the job. Contact Patrick Burns at 206.322.2398 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.