Strikes are a fact of life within the United States labor industry and are a bargaining tool often used by unions when an employer and union cannot agree on the terms and conditions of employment. Unfortunately, while strikes may be used to secure benefits for one group of workers, they also create serious risks of workplace injury for others.
Our Boston work injury attorneys urge employers and employees to be aware of the workplace risks presented by strikes. Ultimately, it is the job of the employer to mitigate and minimize the risks and to present a safe environment for any workers at the worksite even if those workers are only there temporarily.
Worksite Injury Risk Increased by Temporary Workers
On February 8, 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their summary report on major work stoppages that occurred in 2013. According to their report:
- There were 19 major work stoppages in 2012. Work stoppages designated as “major” stoppages included those involving at least 1,000 workers that lasted for at least one shift.
- The total number of work stoppages in 2012 was the same as the number of work stoppages in 2011.
- In 2012, there were 148,000 workers who were idled by major work stoppages. This is up from 113,000 workers idled in 2011.
- In 2012, there were 1.13 million idle days resulting from work stoppages. This, too, reflects an increase from 2011 when there were only 1.02 million idle days as a result of work stoppages.
- The longest work stoppage occurred as a result of a dispute between Lockheed Martin Corporation and the Local 776 unit of the International Association of Machinists. This stoppage lasted 48 workdays, resulted in 3,600 workers made idle and accounted for 172,800 idle days.
- Another major work stoppage involved the American Crystal Sugar Company and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, Sugar Council. The stoppage dates back to August 1, 2011 and resulted in 445,000 days idle since this August date. In 2012 alone, there were a total of 308,100 idle days.
These statistics show that there were thousands of workers who went on strike in 2012, resulting in hundreds-of-thousands of workdays missed. In many cases, when workers strike, employers bring in strike breakers. These are replacement workers who are willing to do the job of those on strike so that the business can remain open.
Unfortunately, the replacement workers may not be fully trained in the work performed by the regular workers. They may not know the machines and the industry as well as the workers who are on strike, especially since typically when a union goes on strike other workers in the field will be unwilling to cross the picket line and take over the jobs. This means that inexperienced workers or even workers without the exact skills necessary may be brought in to fill the void caused by the striking workers.
These temporary workers, therefore, are in danger of getting hurt as they try to do jobs that they aren’t fully and completely equipped to do. Employers must provide proper training and supervision and do everything possible to protect the safety of these workers to avoid workplace injury. While it may be expected that the number of workplace injuries go up with temporary workers, this does not excuse an employer’s obligation to provide a safe work environment. Further, employers can still be held legally liable for any injuries that occur to their employees on the jobsite, even if those employees were hired only as a result of a strike.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Greater Boston area, contact the work accident attorneys at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. Call (617) 777-7777.