By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Last Friday afternoon, a 40-year-old union laborer from Linwood was killed when lightning hit the metal cement bucket he was holding. He was working outside on the fifth floor deck of the unfinished Revel Casino building in Atlantic City. One of the two union bricklayers working with him was injured.
As a small child, I was warned to never be outside in a thunderstorm. Lifeguards chased me and everyone else off the Atlantic City beach at the first sign of distant lightening or thunder. When I rowed in an adult crew club, anyone who did not immediately bring his or her boat back in right after the ?the first flash? or ?the first boom? was kicked out of the program ?? no matter how far away the storm seemed to be.
Later, I learned what to do on a golf course or camping trip when there was no time to get inside. Never hold or even be near a metal golf club, umbrella or streetlight. Lie low, and never be the tallest object around until the storm is completely gone.
But last Friday afternoon as lightning flashes and thunder booms got closer, three trained and experienced union workers kept mixing cement and filling cracks on a high outdoor metal deck, next to a metal cement-mixing machine with a metal bucket, until lightning hit the bucket, killing one, and injuring another.
Why did all three ignore the danger? Why did dozens of trained and experienced union workers stay on the job at the Tropicana Casino garage during October of 2003, even though most of them knew they were rushing the job and not properly reinforcing the concrete, or giving it enough time to dry?? Four workers were killed, and 30 were injured, some crippled for life, when part of the garage collapsed.
I think there were three reasons.
1. For the past 40 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the federal government forced every major industry to spend lots of money to follow thousands of complicated rules. We were told they would make workers ?safe and healthy.? But by saying they were responsible for safety, OSHA let too many company supervisors, union safety officers, and workers falsely assume that a job is safe if it is not shut down by OSHA. As with airport security and hurricane warnings, Americans in the construction industry were brainwashed to trust government ?experts? rather than their own common sense when it comes to safety.
2. ?Collective bargaining? rights stripped union construction workers of their individual rights, including each individual?s ?unalienable? right to protect his or her own life. An employer who tries to punish a non-union employee for refusing to work in unsafe conditions can get in all sorts of trouble. But on a union construction job, the company can easily get the union to yank that employee off the job, and placed at the bottom of the list for all future work, if union officials side with the company. These days big union bosses often side with big businesses executives to protect the personal wealth and power they both enjoy, at the expense of everyone else including rank and file members, shareholders, taxpayers, consumers, etc.
3. Thanks to Democratic President Barak Obama and the Democratic Party, the federal government no longer enforces immigration laws. Some 20 million foreigners are now working illegally in this country, many in the building trades. It is now almost impossible for legal, American citizens to earn middle class wages in the construction business unless they are working on the handful of projects run by big government and big unions (including the Revel Casino, with its $261 million government tax break). Most people in the building trades today know that to be in the middle class, you need to be in the union, and friendly with the business agent so he selects you for one of the few available jobs.
It is easy to understand why union workers thought working outside in a thunderstorm was less dangerous than walking off the job without permission from their union business agent.
Most people agree that big government and big unions are killing the economy by making it too expensive to build anything. While some may argue that government and union rules are worth the high price they bring to every job because they increase safety, it isn?t working that way in Atlantic City.
(Reprinted from September 21, 2011 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/16454-why-would-workers-ignore-lightning-danger.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 1400AM talk radio 3-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturdays. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email
or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.