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War and Carnage in the Workplace

The media plays a critical role in prolonging the theatre of war that takes place inside the workplace everyday.

On May 15th 2002, a worker for Montreal transit died after being struck by a train at the St-Michel Metro station. On the same day, a passenger in Toronto fell onto a subway rail. She didn’t die; she simply rolled under the platform, let the train pass over her and abided her time until she was rescued. It was big news for the mainstream media here in Toronto – CTV, CBC, The Star, The Sun…all the big names carried this fascinating story. I’m happy the lucky woman had her wits about her and survived, but where was the coverage about the transit worker killed by a subway train?

Come to think of it, what about the other four workers who died within short days of each other in the same month? Did the media carry news of their tragic deaths? Jean Rheaume, a maintenance worker fell off the top of a dam and into the Ste-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier River after being struck by a beam carried by other workers; two Newfoundland fishermen from a seven member crew were poisoned to death by CO on their fishing boat; two construction workers on a 15 story Toronto condo construction site fell down an elevator shaft; They ended up as pulp two stories underground.

And the carnage continues. January 03, 2003, a worker was run over by a truck in the Heinz plant in Leamington Ont. There was no coverage in the main press for this tragedy, but what do we expect? The mainstream media, like a lover with no libido, cannot ultimately provide everything we need. We may turn to it in a tight spot, but it’s not our main source of strength and renewal. (Why did these workers die? Why are their deaths not important to the mainstream media? ) The independent media is the source, the secret lover giving us what we need, what we know is true of ourselves.

Those in the know, know that the media is under the direct corporate control of individuals and corporations with an agenda. The “News” is only that information that they want to pass off to support their own goals. News is power. Non-news and ignorance is more power.

The major Canadian Daily’s reports cover house fires in Mississauga, car crashes on the 407, house-break ins, husbands killing their wives in Scarborough. These stories are not news. They are tragic for the people involved, but they are not “news”. These events happen every day. Everyday someone’s house goes up in smoke. Everyday of the week a husband kills his wife or girlfriend, somewhere. Every single day there is carnage on the highways and byways. Why are we saturated with these stories and hear naught about death and maiming on the job?

Is it possible that the Canadian Media doesn’t cover worker’s deaths because they don’t want us to connect with other workers, to bond with, or relate to them? We can shed tears over the media story of the poor little mutt that was tied up in a backyard in the cold, or to the victim of a robbery but, don’t feel sorry for those dam lazy workers. If they die on the job, it’s their own stupid fault.

It has been ten years since the last completed statistics on occupational injuries and deaths have been kept in Canada. At that time a Canadian national task force indicated that occupationally induced cancer alone would account for 5400 workers’ deaths per year, and that the true number of occupational deaths may well be over 10,000. If this isn’t a human tragedy that should be on the news every single night, I don’t know what is.

No, under capitalism, capitalists and their controlling arm – the media conspire to keep information about workers and the brutality of work under capitalism out of the “news”. They do not want workers to know the background and the history of worker’s struggles in Canada, or anywhere for that matter. To make worker’s health and safety an issue in the mainstream press would mean that workers could see the carnage, organize to change it, and overthrow the entire rotten system.

It was only after wildcat strikes by miners in Elliot Lake in 1976, that a Royal Commission was struck, which eventually led to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. If workers could fight back then over basic human rights and win, they can do it again! Now, workers must fight with all layers in the working class: students; unemployed; secretaries; white-collar workers; unionized workers and non-unionized workers to fight against capitalism, and the neo-liberal agenda.

All out for peace – and against war and carnage in the workplace: North America Anti-War Week: January 15 -20, 2003.

GLORIA BERGEN writes about environmental health and safety. She lives in Toronto, Ontario and can be reached at: globerg@sympatico.ca

 

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