a dangerous business
mcwane story
ira coferthe capitolfactory footage
join the discussion: january 9, 2003


As a safety professional I am curious if there are any plans to distribute this material to organizations that can help make a difference. I would recommend the ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers), AIHA (American Industrial Hygiene Association), National Safety Council, and most important the Congress of the United Staes.

All of these organizations have news letters or magazines that this article could be put in. I would also recommend a feed to such prime time shows as 60 minutes, Prime Time, CNN, etc. to see if they can help with exposing this criminal behavior to the public.

The written material is powerful and the video is a great way to show these working conditions to the public. We owe you and the other people who made this possible our gratitude for helping watch over us. Keep up the great work.

Roy Rutledge
charlotte, north carolina


Why is the Union and the Government agencies so powerless? I have been doing work at McWane for almost 20 years and I have yet to meet or hear of a person retire. They all quit or get killed before they are old enough to retire.

Another hint that this place is terrible is the permanent "taking applications" sign at the entrance to the plant. I am saddened Birmingham again has to be the brunt of a another national disgrace, not racism but greedy elitism.

You can use my initials but please do not use my name since I may no longer be allowed on the property if you do!

birmingham, al


How could a company that is so corrupt, so inhuman fall through the cracks for so many years. There are not enough words to describe the horror that these people went through. At least someone is speaking and unveiling this human agony.

Marthe Sokoloff
new york, ny


What amazes me most, is the lack of knowledge in the general public about work hazards and industrial pollution. I live minutes from Elmira and remember the lethal accident Frontline covered. I never heard of McWane industries or their horrible safety record.

Our political leaders ignore these problems because there isn't enough money in worker protection for their campaigns. Hopefully this program will open a few more eyes.

Allen Aduddle
williamsville, new york


I was just wondering when the next showing of Dangerous Business is in the Twin Cities, Minnesota! So if anyone knows, please e-mail me and tell me! Thanks a bunch! ~Jessica~

Jessica Smith
fridley, mn

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
All local PBS stations have the option to repeat this program at their discretion. You should contact your local station to see whether they plan to rebroadcast "A Dangerous Business" sometime in the near future.


Dear Frontline, I set aside time last Thursday night to watch your program on McWane and Tyler Pipe. As I find your reporting to be informative and exceptionaly indepth (at least as far a lay-person can speculate).

I anxiously waited for 9:00 p.m. to roll around. To my utter dismay I had to turn it off after only twenty minutes. I was totally ashamed and heart-sick that there are actually humans that have so little regard for their fellow man. How could this happen - I thought we were a civilized nation, but, again I am proven wrong.

I printed out the entire report and have researched some newspapers on this greedy bunch and will follow-up with a few letters. I know it won't change a thing, but will sustain my anger ever so slightly.

Keep up the great reporting.

Kay Clark
flagstaff, az


I am pleased to see that someone is finally looking at the issue of whether or to what degree American workers are protected at work.

I am a Doctor of Health & Safety and the principal consultant of a firm providing services throughout the US and in two other countries. Quite often I am sickened by what I see regarding the activities of OSHA. There are many, many regulatory requirements but enforcement is so often lacking. This is particularly the case in some states having their own approved OSHA program. The primary culprit of the situation is the "politicization" of worker protection.

Considering that the workforce is aging with the becoming of age of the babyboomers, something must be done to change the status of worker protection. If the present rules were enforced to the degree they should be, more workers would live and others would not be injured or made ill. So many employers look at OSHA as a joke; the only motivator is most often the cost of workers'comp. I would be glad to discuss specifics.

Ronald Lott
clarksville, tennessee


Thank you so much for this broadcast. My 13 year old son and I watched it together. It helped me as a parent to get the message of "why you need to study and get an education" across. It was sad to see so many grown men, former employees of that corporation, hang their heads in shame for having worked there.

I could not be a member of the McWane family and not change my name after this broadcast. The only other comment I have is this. If there is a heaven and a hell...hell for the McWane clan and their cronies will be an eternity as a worker in one of their plants!

Liz Mann
owensboro, kentucky


Once again Frontline shows why it is heads and shoulders above other newsprograms. Your recent show on workplace safety reminded me why unions were initially popular in the United States.

What can an ordinary citizen do? The only thought I have is to seek out McWane's customers and pressure them to use their influence with their purchasing power to force McWane to change or lose business. In the real world the only force that counts is money!!

Naples, Florida

Jerry Alcazar
naples, florida


Most likely nothing will change even after your excellent Frontline documentary. The foundry business is a declining industry, cyclical in nature and satisfying a derived demand. Jobs are nearly always insecure. Many workers in the foundry industry have few credentials to enable them to find work else where.

McWane is a deplorable foundry ,but there are many more like it in the foundry industry. There are many foundry workers besides those at McWane working at risk who can't expect any change for the better. Workers are seen as an expense, a necessary evil. Anytime they become less necessary or more evil they are terminated. One way to become more evil is to be injured or sick. Another way is to get old. However, there are many good foundries too that do try to emphasise safty in what is a dangerous business. I know from personal experience. I have a Metallurgical Engineering degree, MBA and am a Certified Quality Engineer. I recently retired from the foundry business. I did my best but often was ignored or intimidated.

Lowell Roberts
bremen, indiana


As a workers' compensation lawyer and the author of a text in this field of law, as well as the past President of WILG(the Workplace Injury Litigation Group, a non-profit group of attorneys with it's office in Washington, D.C.), I can assure you that Frontline has only hit the tip of the iceberg with this excellent report.

In 1996 WILG (www.wilg.org)produced a videotape entitled "Disability Nightmare" about the horrors of getting injured on the job and how you were treated by management. It's only gotten worse since then. Last August, Mother Jones magazine published an article by Eric Schlosser (author of "Fast Food Nation") about the meat packing industry in Texas, which has some of the worst workers' compenstion laws in the nation. It's not surprising that Tyler, Texas is the main site of this tragedy.

Not only is OSHA ineffective, but the limited protections and benefits afforded injured workers under the various state workers' compensation systems have been slowly and systematically eroded over the last 20 years. As Americans, most of whom fall under these laws, we should be greatly concerned at what's happening. As taxpayers, we should also be concerned that we end up picking up the bills for these injured workers, when the comp insurance company pays only a fraction of the ultimate cost.

Leonard Jernigan
raleigh, n.c.


Dear Frontline

As an outsider looking into the foundry and steel business I can only say that, we as Americans, must take a stand against McWane Inc. I want to do something to help.And I think that one way I can is to spread the news about this outfit and tell people to send letters, emails, postcards,faxes or pick up the phone, and send them to your congress represestatives, to the USWA (United Steelworkers of America Union), to your state Atty Generals,to your local newspapers. to Osha,to President Bush, to anyone who has any power and who will listen.

Send your correspondence to McWane Inc,1927 First Avenue North,Birmingham, Alabama 35203 and address it to Mr G. Ruffner Page, and tell him that all American knows now of the inhuman conditions and the mistreatment of their employees. A letter will cost you $.37 to mail-a small amount ,a pittance ,that may save a life,or prevent an injury.

Let Mr. Page know that all Americans are going to band together on this and we demand action to be taken-that these atrocities will no longer be permitted in the United States,that he and McWane Inc are not going to drag down the USA any more to a "Third World " level. Let your voices be heard.We are Americans.This is the greatest country in the world,and we refuse to sit idly by any longer.

Faith Van Louvender
stratford, ct


Thanks for your report on McWane. I was getting ready to turn my employer in for safety violations because I thought OSHA could help. Now I know different. I realize now OSHA has no power.

It's a sad day for America and it's workers right now. Employers are using and abusing their employees every day. Our Forefathers did not fight and die so companies like McWane could thrive in our country. They fought against tyranny and injustice. McWane is a disgrace to this nation, the world and to God.

muncie, in


Great story of what can happen when people just do not care.

I work at a foundry which is the exact opposite of the one that you showed on your program. We are a smaller foundry than the one on your show but the danger of accidents is always there. The company is always stressing safety and holds monthly safety inspections and meetings not just for the supervisors but all employes. All machinery is kept in good working order and is inspected on a regulsr basis.

Needless to say our safety record is quite good and most injuries are minor ones, production is quite high and it is not a horrible place to work for. Sure foundries are not the safest places on earth to work in but with a little effort on the part of everyone they do not have to be the death trap you showed on your program. All foundries are not like that and should not be looked down upon just because of a few. We produce goods which help to keep this country the great one that it is.

Sheldon Schur
milwaukee, wisconsin


Bravo! First class investigative journalism again at Frontline! And the history of ACIPCO and McWane gave an interesting bit of additional perspective.

Friends from industry have told me stories like these before. I hope this will open the eyes and minds of many people who believe myths like "OSHA is out of control."

The truth is that OSHA has never been allowed to be very effective. Those who own the means of production also rule this country, and they would rather not have an effective OSHA. They also started the myth of the "out-of-control" OSHA.

Charles Peterson
san antonio,, tx

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
For more about OSHA, read the article by Prof. Weil in the "OSHA" section of this web site.


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