Joan Lichterman, a long-time KPFA listener, is health & safety director of University Professional and Technical Employees, UPTE-CWA 9119.
Sheri Sangji, a 23-year-old lab assistant at UCLA, was fatally injured on December 29th, 2008 by a flash fire in the lab of chemistry professor Patrick Harran while transferring a highly hazardous chemical that ignites when exposed to air. She died 18 excruciating days later as a result of burns to 43 percent of her body and inhalation exposure. On the day of the fire, less than two months after her 23rd birthday, the recent Pomona College graduate was 11 weeks into a job she had taken to earn money to go to law school.
UCLA's claim that Sangji's death was “a horrible accident, not a crime” and therefore no punishment is deserved, is not supported by the evidence provided by Cal/OSHA's Bureau of Investigations or by the state's labor laws. That's why the LA County District Attorney lodged three felony charges against the UC regents, UCLA, and Sangji's boss, chemistry professor Patrick Harran, on December 27, 2011.
Antonio Barajas, 33, died last year after being thrown against a wood chipper, leaving behind his wife and four-month-old son. A tree trimmer’s climbing rope, which became entangled in branches fed into the wood chipper, snapped tight, sending Barajas into the machine. Barajas was one of nearly 200 grounds maintenance workers who die on the job every year in the United States, many of whom are Latino or Hispanic. About a quarter of those deaths involve contact with wood chippers or other equipment or objects.
. On March 25, 1911, some 146 workers — mostly immigrant women and girls as young as 14 — perished when a fire broke out in the New York City sweatshop. Because managers had locked a critical exit, many workers were trapped inside as they sought to flee the fire. Others jumped to their deaths as horrified onlookers watched.
This shameful event strengthened the garment workers union and galvanized social movements and reform. Many of the workplace standards and protections that we now take for granted rose from the ashes of that fire. These gains didn’t happen by themselves, and must continually be renewed. Today’s workers are under attack. Corporate interests and their political allies are trying to roll back fundamental protections, from the right of workers to take collective action to effective enforcement of workplace standards. And in the meanwhile, too many preventable worker deaths, illnesses, and injuries continue to occur.
Berkeley-based KPFA Radio (94.1 FM), part of the five-station Pacifica network, is no stranger to controversy. But recent actions by its national management have thrown the station into its worst crisis in over a decade, bringing charges of financial mismanagement, political favoritism and union-busting.
Hundreds of listeners, paid staff, and unpaid programmers gathered last fall in a spirited rally to support the staff. Enthusiastically supported by tens of thousands of listener-sponsors, KPFA is the place to go for progressive political analysis and news coverage, as well as cutting-edge music and radio drama. KPFA’s Morning Show was a Bay Area institution, delivering up 2 hours of thoughtful discussion and news coverage on local, national and international issues, and including a regular weekly half-hour segment on labor.