A March survey of 347 service workers in the U.S. South found that a shocking 87 percent were injured on the job in the last year. The workers surveyed came from eleven states across the “Black Belt,” or Southern states with historically large Black populations. Workers organized under the Union of Southern Service Workers filed a landmark civil rights complaint against the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (SC OSHA), alleging that the agency “discriminates by disproportionately excluding Black workers from the protection of its programmed inspections.”
The survey, conducted by the Strategic Organizing Center, laid bare the shocking reality of the service industry in the U.S. South, composed of principally Black workers. More than half of survey respondents reported observing serious health and safety hazards at work.
The survey data indicates that workers often fear retaliation to avoid enforcing safety rules themselves, something they shouldn’t have to do in the first place. Service workers need OSHA agencies, whose jobs are to step in to enforce safety regulations.
But in South Carolina, their statewide OSHA plan is not doing its job, workers say. As USSW reports in their complaint, “SC OSHA neglects key industries whose workforce is 42% [Black] employees while focusing the vast majority of its programmed inspections on industries made up of only 18% [Black] workers.”
In conjunction with their complaint, USSW workers went on a one-day strike across three states—Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina—yesterday to fight the dangerous trend of unsafe service industry workplaces.
Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service