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Vol. 76/No. 10      March 12, 2012

‘We need to enforce safety
codes’ on the docks
WILMINGTON, Calif.—As a 40-foot loaded container came tumbling down to the deck, dock foreman Steve Saggiani, 47, went running for safety. The containers were stacked six high. Saggiani was unable to escape and was crushed to death on Jan. 19. He was a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 94. It is not known if a cable snagged the container or if it was accidentally bumped.

“Newspaper accounts don’t really explain it,” said Michael Black, a member of ILWU Local 13, who drives utility tractors. A container weighs four tons empty and up to 35 tons full. Some workers on the dock said it sounded like a bomb had exploded.

Workers at the dispatch hall expressed shock at the initial response of the Long Beach Police Department. As ILWU Local 13 President JoJo Cortez attempted to board the ship he was greeted by an aggressive officer, who refused to allow him to assess the situation of his union brother. Cortez quoted the officer as saying, “I don’t give a bleep who you are, take one more step and I’ll arrest you! This is a crime scene!”

“How many more workers have to die before we can start enforcing safety rules?” asked Gary Swisher, an ILWU Local 13 member with eight years on the job. “It’s unsafe to work with a 30-ton container over your head. So what if you lose 10 minutes, so what!”

This has become a common scene on the waterfront, where workers often rush through the yards and work in hazardous conditions with inadequate equipment and insufficient staffing. If the union allows these companies to provide an unsafe, unhealthy environment, then we’re heading down a slippery slope. Just a reminder, we get paid by the hour—not the container.

We need to enforce the safety codes which our forefathers fought and died for. Because an injury to one, is an injury to all!

Jason Madera is a member of ILWU Local 13.
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