A Dangerous Business Revisited
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After watching your program, it's obvious to me that "The McWane Way" is still just another cog in the problems in this country. As was mentioned in other blogs, there was absolutely no remorse about the deaths & injuries that happened because of McWane. As far as I'm concerned, all the people from the supervisor on up to McWane should be convicted as murderers since they all had a huge hand in the deaths of these (not workers) PEOPLE. It's real nice that McWane found it more profitable to be compliant now, but it's all just for money. They should be punished for their murders and dismemberings.

One thing that strikes me as troubling in all this, though, is that most of the people that are responsible for the "McWane" tragedies (as well as the other tragedies that are still going on) aren't really getting any attention: you and me. I started thinking about this when you said the ex-manager turned whistle blower (I forget his name) is a conservative. Well, most people that say they're a conservative vote republican. The current administration has no care about American workers (which they've demonstrated time & time again), and I don't see anything better from the democrats (they were in control of the White House, the House and Senate at one point and did nothing about these issues). The republicans and democrats consistently show no concern for American workers, yet we keep voting for them! It's our fault they have control. Perhaps we need to start looking at what WE can do.

Mike Klatt
St. Paul, MN


I'm very happy to hear that McWane is finnaly getting it right.I was an employee at Tyler Pipe in the late 90's I had 3 OSHA recordable injuries in less than a year. The last of which I had to have back surgery. Today I still live with pain, and have had to have another operation. I now have 2 rods, 3 plates and 5 screws in my lower back.

And as a result of all this I'm now a Health & Safety Coordinator with a very vivid story to tell everyone I come in contact with. A lot of people don't believe the horror stories a told, until I show them the video and news clip. I feel like I'm one of the fortunate ones. My family and faith in God help me to make the best out of a bad situation. A hard life lesson that I will never forget.

Arlington, Texas


First and foremost, thank you for all the hard workplaced in this revealing report on how corporate america will cut all corners, violate any laws, and even sacrifice its own employees' just to turn a profit.In a society of justice, it is within every free persons intrest to reveal any and all wrong doings of a large company such as this, especially in an economic climate where workers rights are routinely challenged and managers are coerced and rewarded in shaving the costs of man hour labor.

I commend the efforts of frontline to bring this type of information to US, THE PEOPLE, even as attention turns to the latest politcal diversion. Were it not for Frontline and very one at all P.B.S. locations, showing us how big business is slowly eroding the liberties our forefathers fought and died for, this country would I fear, be heading to a new inustrialized version of slavery.

roy m
cato, ny


Thank you so very much for the excellent work on this story. I remember the 1st edition and was rivetted to it! I really appreciated the follow up piece and have witnessed the changes brought about by your investigation. It NEVER would have happened without it. You have done more to create positive change than anything I have seen from elected leaders for quite some time. I only wish that the rest of the media performed even a fraction of the effort you have. But, they are all bought and paid for. Please, keep up the public service you provide and accept my heartfelt thanks for being with us, the citizen/workers who struggle every day to keep going.

Kevin Bayhouse
Boise, ID


Thank you for bringing great news and stories with such great integrity. I find it refreshing that there are news organizations like yours that are committed to giving us truth and facts, with none of the hype I view on the networks. Thanks for reporting on this subject. Although I am fortunite enough to work for an employer that is commited to safe work practices, I feel for those who are up against tyrant managers, and employers. Thanks for exposing Tyler Pipe, and the McWane Corp. I will keep coming here for more of your reporting.

Ron Pieroni
Crystal, Illinois


Nice job with both McWane programs. Thank you. Unfortunately, change is slow to come because individuals are rarely imprisoned. Companies settle, pay the fines, and move on. They rarely pay fines commensurate with the increased profits from non-compliance. Managers who decided not to spend money for compliance are almost never charged and convicted.

Responsible managers are more concerned with their employment status or retirement than they are with criminal charges and imprisonment. Many already understand what the plant manager learned too late, whistleblowers lose everything, no one else does. And enforcement resources are stretched too thin to address the massive non-compliance throughout industry.

I hope you stay with and expand your coverage on this important phenomenon.

DuPage, IL


Has any legislation been proposed by any members of Congress to stiffen OSHA penalties for willful violations of health and safety laws in response to this story?

Stephanie Riccobene
Lakewood, Ohio

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The Protecting America's Workers Act has been proposed in several of the last Congresses but has not passed. It is currently under consideration in both the House and the Senate. For more on this issue, see this article about the penalties for causing the death of a worker.


I am certainly impressed Frontline has taken the time out to send viewers an honest account of a) what WCB really pays for - to protect the company - not just help injured workers and b) there are 10,000 diseases and 6,000 injuries yearly due to work-related injuries.

Companies feel it is cheaper to hide behind 'public relations' ie. ads in newspapers or giving to charities, while injuring workers, lax health and safety instruction or teachings or none at all, a wide turnover of staff, because nobody wants to work there; and leaves those who do show up for work vulnerable to disease and injury and most end up working alone until replacements are found. (Replacements now consist of immigrants who speak little English and probably don't understand health and safety - nor the culture or rules of the country). Most are at the mercy of employers to teach them.

While employers continue to hire friends - for managers - the "Peter Principle" with little or no training or 'communication' skills, (they certainly know how to bully but not communicate instruction or act as team players), we will continually have dead or injured workers. Governments are not vigilant enough in their follow-up or punishment of non-compliance of the Health and Safety inspection or rules. This is PPE - personal protective equipment, week. (We were told on the job this week - when inspectors come by if you don't know the rules just tell them the bulletin board is on the back wall and I will read it when I get time). (Where is instruction from managers - and teaching - who don't know the rules themselves - or don't want to teach others)? Having been injured twice - unnecessarily - I finally found out I have a) the right to refuse dangerous work and b) the right to report dangerous work.This all came about when I telephoned the Labour Board to ask a question regarding WSIB - their answering service asked these two questions.

Where are the unions? Unions are not getting the word out either. They (Unions) do not return calls. (Too busy?) They never miss taking money off your paycheque for union dues. My one supervisor who injured me was in the same union as the employees (myself) - what help is that? The both men who injured me were bullies and rule by fear and intimidation. How does a women stand up to a man on the job? Especially, when he is physically larger than her and roars at you when you are working alone. (Bullies - they bully men too). (There are woman bull bosses as well.) Others are afraid to stick up for health and safety infractions, because they are afraid for their jobs. I am no longer afraid - I am willing to do whatever it takes to save one more life that is unnecessarily killed or injured because money (profits) and the environment (going green) is not more important than a worker. It is all a public relations and show for the outside world while the workers suffer in silence.

Today, our company still does not have enough staff (although, they make well over budget every week and has earned the most profits in the district). They don't care because with no union you are commodity who they can spit out when they are done with you. Like McWane many people have walked out of the job and never came back. The company doesn't care because there are many immigrants and refugees needing a job.

The worst thing one can do is go to Human Resources; they are for the company,too. (Most workers quit in frustration after they are hurt). They go onto disability and then unemployment and the company doesn't take them back. Most people spend a lifetime at work. They work to eat and survive. Most of their day is spent at work. When a company is finished with them, especially when they are injured by the company they move them on. They don't call them back. It is easier to replace a worker - than ot comply with Health and Safety rules. (It's all about profits - the bottom line). Fines for death or injuries are not stiff enough. It hardly means anything. $240,000.00 in fines, compared to billions they make in profit - they will just make it up in sales next year. They know consumers have to shop to eat and survive. They shop for clothes, cars, household items. They will never go out of business.

Many workers in other companies (especially warehouses), with unions, (but simple minded union stewards - because there is nobody competent to pick from), I am told and and low paying retail workers - where big box stores make the profits and little stores - and businesses are suffering, all have no unions. Part-time workers get no coverage of healthcare or union. SAD. No union - means - no rules. Who will you tell. Who will back you up? Nobody. WSIB fines mean nothing. It is a mere drop in the bucket - these fines. No big deal.

Why do people continue to get injured - because nobody enforces or teaches safety practices. Managers and assistant managers - don't care. They just keep Head Offices at bay and customer service going. There are not enough people doing the workforce jobs. Most end up working alone. Some are forced into other areas, where they are not trained for, when someone calls in sick, is off on holidays, not replaced because they are off sick or quit. (It all comes down to dollars - saving the companies money).

The workplace has been driven into part-time work, with no benefits - because it is the driving force behind companies. (Profits, Profits, Profits).

(Workplace safety and health should 'always' be first. Most injuries if not all are preventable. People are afraid to speak out. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Make the fines greater, do more inspection checks and make middle managers accountable. They get paid to protect workers and mentor and instruct workers - make them 'do their job.' Managers and assistant managers are supposed to be leaders - and half the time you can't find one when you need one. - Some are outside smoking cigarettes. (If they were available when you need them - half the injuries probably wouldn't happen). Some of the males are off flirting with 'young girls.' I asked a safety question this week at work - and had to get the answer elsewhere because the assisant manager was too busy flirting at the meeting he was conducting than to answer 'health and safety questions.' The worker is left too many times to figure it out themselves or lift heavy things because too many people called in sick, or quit or on holidays and never replaced "because the company is saving money."

So the next time you see a company collecting for charities and putting on a public relations scan - the newspaper getting their picture taken with their charitable donation, etc., - they have the money (millions/billions) to pay the newspapers to look good - remember to think of the suffering, low paid workers inside working part-time without benefits and trying to make ends meet. (A lot of people are educated and can't find work after college and are forced into these jobs due to family circumstances - the whole world is not incompetent and most people today have a grade 12 just to get a job or some type of training). (They can stop blaming the workers for injuries - it's the employers causing the injuries).

Thank you for a great story. I hope there are many more to come. You will get the viewers. I will personally be calling my friends to watch. The word must get out. Health and safety first - it will save money in the long run.

Niagara Falls, Ontario. Canada.


The facts are that McWane was a large company that had killed lots of workers and caused major damage to the environment. They only improved their behavior because of the serious enviromental penalties.

McWane was not alone, and this problem does not just lie in the past. There are many other companies -- large and small -- that today have the same disregard for workers' safety. But OSHA penalties have still not changed, and unless the death of a worker is accompanied by a few dead fish or polluted air, there will be no serious penalties and often no improvement.

Washington, DC


Until the public cares about employee health and safety, little will be done in Congress to increase fines and penalties to a reasonable level. Once the true cost of employee health and safety is expressed to the consumer (workers' compensation costs, temporary and permanent disability payments, chronic illness medical treatment and insurance payments) as a pass-through cost that increases the price of a consumer good, will we see any hint of the possibility of change. Unfortunately, a worker hurt on the job will always be "that other guy, not me."

Austin, TX


As an observer to the situation, never having placed a foot inside a pipe foundry, nor being aware of the first airing of McWane industries, the time spent on the past was needed to understand the origins of the story. To those critical of the time devoted to the visitation of failures, I remind you that is the only place that true lessons are taught. This is one of them.

Being able to listen to your critics is wise indeed, but I tire of the ever present claims of "bias" in your reporting; as if you aren't allowed a point of view. Of Course frontline is biased, only in the true definition of the word, not the implication wrought by an incomplete opening to an arguement, supplied only by the word itself.

The implication of an exaggeration of the facts found in the sensationalized reporting of most, if not all commercial outlets would be interesting to me, if a most astute observer would point it out, I would most assuredly listen.

If the claim of "bias" is being made, could you, the person claiming such; please be so kind as to expand on what type of bias is being demonstrated by the reporting shown here, so I too may be able to benefit from your knowledge of the subject. Thank you.

John Martin
St. Louis, Missouri


I admire, applaud, and appreicate the work of the entire Frontline staff. The horrific injustic Frontline exposed regarding work-place safety issues compelled me to contribute my perspecitve.

I worked for many years in the call center industry where fines for telemarketing companies calling the wrong phone number cost telemarking companies millions. How is it that an annyoing phone call is worth millions of dollars in fines, but the potential loss of life or serious injury is only worth a few thousand dollar fine? Can this be true? We as a country need to demand a higher value be placed on workplace safety!

I agree with the earlier comment - Where were/are the Unions? I'll be the pipe making (and other industrial) lobbyists are busy!

My heart goes out to those families that have been and may be impacted by this corporate inbalance and injustice. Perhaps McWane has implemented changes to improve the situation, however, how many "Former McWane's" are still operating "business as usual"? Shame on corporate America for putting the almighty dollar ahead of ethics yet again and shame on us for allowing it to happen.

Carrie S
Madison, WI


I had very intimate knowledge of the inside workings of a McWayne plant, up until I quit working at Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company, in Provo, Utah. I hired into that plant in 1969, thinking I had a good local job and a good career. I finally left the plant in 1991, after 22 years of service, of my own accord.

When I first hired on at that plant, the only safety equipment provided by the company was safety glasses and, where needed, welding gloves. This of course was pre-OSHA, and hard hats were neither provided or required. I actually wore a surplus Army helmet liner, in lieu of a hard hat, when I was working in the pipe foundry. Almost to a man, everyone else wore baseball caps. I can truly say that at that point in time, safety was not very high up on the ladder of corporate concern.

I remember running one of the pipe machines, and while pulling a pipe as the machine traveled up the rail, a coworker stepped into the path of the machine. He was to the opposite side of the machine and totally out of view of me, and the machine pinched into his right leg, at mid-calf. I saw him fall to the deck as I pulled the machine away, and immediately ran to his aid, as did everyone else who was aware of the commotion. When I got to him, the toe of his boot was up at his knee. Almost immediately the General Foreman of the foundry was on the scene and wanted to know who was running that machine. Almost in tears, I told him that I was, and that I was so sorry for what had happened. Somehow I knew that I was in trouble. His only response was, in essence "Get back to work, we have pipe to make". He cleared everyone out of the area with the exception of a couple of men to tend to the injured worker until first aid help arrived.

This was my first real experience seeing someone seriously injured on the job, but before it wouldn't be the last. Before I left, there were 2 men killed on the job, and another seriously brain damaged, lasting only a few years until passing away. However, there were countless injuries, and especially serious burns. Those burns are an everyday experience when working in a foundry. EVERYONE who works on the lines have the scars around their necks, shoulders, etc. to prove it. A single run-out when making a pipe, can get molten iron into the clothing of 3 or 4 men, and run-outs are not uncommon.

I worked in the local union at that plant, being very involved for the last 12 years I was there. As the years wore on, the company became more and more repressive, and demanding of their employees. At the same time, they were more and more determined to take the union on, and undermine their leaders and efforts at every turn. Strikes were not uncommon when it came time for negotiations, and the "good old boy" attitude of the company officials from down south let us know that they were serious about keeping us under their thumbs.

Needless to say, I was not very good at playing their game, and did all I could to represent the men who had been dealt with, in my opinion, unfairly by the company. My last year at the plant was tainted by the company firing me, and refusing to let me come back to work, after a strike. I was very involved in the strike activities at the picket line, and very vocal in encouraging the men to hang in there, and stick together. The company went so far as to send guards out to video the activities on the picket line, probably hoping to catch someone in an illegal activity. Unfourtunately, they caught one of their own guards in an activity that caught the attention of the county Sheriff's office. It also involved me to some extend, and I am sure that is why I was fired.

When I was fired, I immediately filed a grievance, through the union, to get my job (and 21 years seniority) back. Eventually the, case went to arbitration, and after a brief case presented by the company lawyer, and their witness', the union presented one witness, a deputy county sheriff. With several more witness' waiting to be called for the union side, the arbitrater made a "table" ruling. That ruling restored all my back wages, seniority, and benefits, etc. He stated that "I don't know what I am doing here"; in essence we were wasting his time.

That was the attitude of the company when I left in 1991. "Whip, or beat, or do whatever you have to do to anyone, to get more production. Make everyone fear for their jobs. Take care of the company foreman, no matter how cruel, or dissfunctional, or incapacitated they are. Get rid of the old employees, and hire young, new ones."

Am I bitter? Hell yes I am bitter. I wasted a lot of good years trying hard to do a good job, but as soon as I became a union leader, I became a target. Unfortunately for me, not all union leaders are cut of the same cloth, and most of them were very much in step with the company, probably for the sake of their own skins.

Springville, Utah


I commend PBS this is a good example of how justice can be served without lawyers; public justice !rock on

Matt hendry
Fullerton, CA


Every day that I work at my job as a safety trainer, I am exposed to employers who tacitly encourage their employees to knowingly skirt known safe procedures and endanger themselves. When incidents occur that result in injury to those workers, the supervisors and employers always blame the employees for their own "recklessness". This is not universal however it is still prevalent. When I do encounter workplaces that require their workers to follow Safe Operating Procedures to the letter, two things happen; workers' attitude toward their employer and work ethic is high and they go home safe at the end of the working day. Employers need to stop paying lip service to safety by making the same sorry statements that "Safety is an Attitude" and the like and actually promoting a safe workplace by actually mentoring workers to follow set procedures and by encouraging real dialogue between workers and the supervisors who have control over the conditions in the workplace.I spent more than 30 years in a steel mill that had an attitude somewhat like the "old McWane" attitude and unfortunately saw far too many fellow workers killed or maimed. It doesn't need to be this way.

Dave Bennett


How are we to measure the strides that McWane has made if we aren't able to see where they've been? Thank you for broadcasting the original airing.

I did find area lacking in the investigation, which wouldn't have occured to me if you hadn't gone back into the plants. And that is, where are the unions in this?

Prior to tonight, I have been staunchly anti-union my entire working life. But now, seeing how one company can willfully ignore the livelihood of their workforce, I'm now reconsidering.

If OSHA can't do anything, maybe the unions can?

Jolene B
council bluffs , IA


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posted february 5, 2008

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