Who Stands Up for You and Me?

    Each year the FBI issues its Crime in the United States Report, which documents murder, robbery, assault and other street crimes. They don’t, however, publish a yearly report of corporate crime committed in the United States. Most corporate crimes and violence go undetected because, unlike other criminal groups in the United States, major corporations have enough power to define the laws under which they are held accountable.
        Shut up and get to workThe casualty rate for working people in the United States is higher than many people realize because the media focuses on interpersonal crime. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that over 11,000 workers die in their workplace each year. Another 50,000 working people die prematurely from occupationally related diseases, in addition to 1.8 million job injuries annually. OSHA cited that most workplace deaths are caused by poor safety standards and lax enforcement of workplace laws. When corporations speed up production or cut back on staff, exhaustion and stress are dangerous threats to working people.
        Despite the relative weakness of OSHA, Washington lobbyists representing the business elite are actually trying to eliminate OSHA. The National Association of Manufacturers and United Parcel Service are the leading corporate lobbyists against job safety standards and enforcement. The right to a safe environment for all workers was won by pressure from consumer advocates like Ralph Nader and unionists. OSHA has only 1,800 inspectors for more than six million workplaces. With roughly 90 million workers nationwide, this averages out to one inspection per workplace every 70 years. Nevertheless, big business vehemently opposes OSHA.
        The public’s perception of crime and criminals is painted by a media controlled by monopoly corporations. Fox News Corporation, owned by wealthy Republican contributor Rupert Murdoch, has nightly features on Fox TV like “America’s Most Wanted” and “Cops” to glorify law enforcement’s targeting of poor and disenfranchised drug users. Most of what people see on corporate-controlled television are dramas about serial killers, hidden video “caught on tape” shows or police busting minorities in the “ghettos.” Never on television or in reality are there law enforcement agents busting down the doors of corporate executives who knowingly violated workplace safety laws, or who robbed their employees of millions of dollars.
        Corporate crime is rampant not only through a lack of enforcement of the law, but also because crime is built into the economic system. Corporate criminal behavior could be looked at as oversocialization of amoral capitalist ideals. The only concern of capitalist America is to squeeze as much profit value out of labor power as possible. Every dollar a company spends on safety for workers and consumers is one dollar less in profits. From a capital accumulation standpoint, it is a rational—although villainous—business decision to skimp on safety.

Sarah Turner