Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's your life worth?

There are various ways of calculating the answer, using such metrics as the retail cost of the chemicals that make up your body, the black-market price for your harvested organs, or the value of the life insurance policy your spouse forged your signature on after the economy soured.

Here's another one:

[I]n 2006, the average penalty assessed employers [by the Department of Labor] for violations that "pose a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm" was $881.

Put that another way: Under the anti-labor policies of Bush Department of Labor, your safety at work has, statistically speaking, come to be worth about the same as the cost of a new plasma TV for the executive lounge. Not much of an incentive to worry about keeping you in one piece.

That's something to keep in mind as you watch the Civil War Re-Enactment Society Senate Republicans fighting tooth and nail (or, if you prefer, musket and bayonet) to keep Hilda Solis' name from even being advanced as Obama's nominee for Secretary of Labor--on the grounds that she would do things that would, you know, be beneficial to workers in this country, in particular, by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

The fight to prevent collective bargaining isn't only about determining the price of your life--broadly speaking, the unprecedented growth of the American middle class that it's taken corporatist Republicans 40 years of constant work to grind down to the moribund condition we find it in today, hanging on by a thread, was the product of the wave of unionization after WWII--but that's a good place to start.

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