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  • Writer's pictureJack McAllister

Nonunion Labor is Killing Workers

Literally. It is not hyperbole. When workers are not allowed to effectively organize, the effects can be fatal.

The most prominent example of this is obviously the shooting involving Alec Baldwin on-set of the self-produced film, Rust. As reported by Variety, complaints had been raised not only to the producers of Rust about their use of nonunion labor on-set, but also with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 480 union, the New Mexico chapter of the Film and TV crew union.

Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed claims she has “no idea,” how live ammunition was introduced to the set, later claiming that she is the victim of “sabotage” through her attorneys.

Would a closed set consisting of unionized labor have prevented the tragedy that unfolded on set, costing a cinematographer their life and injuring the director? Impossible to say.

What is possible to say, is that employers putting profit over people, has time and time again led to unsafe working conditions that sometimes result in death.

According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), the country’s largest federation of unions, 275 workers died each day in 2019 from unsafe working conditions.

Baldwin and his co-producers allegedly “used them [nonunion workers] to replace skilled union members who were protesting their working conditions,” according to an IATSE Local 480 statement, in the interest of saving time and money.

The AFL-CIO argues that the Rust producers’ decision could be much more costly than providing crew members with shorter hours, shorter commutes and their paychecks on-time, as alleged in a recent Los Angeles Times story.

According to the AFL-CIO, “The cost of occupational injuries and deaths in the United States is staggering, estimated at $250 billion to $330 billion a year.” A staggering number indeed considering the meager demands of the crew members of Rust.

Not limited to film and television, even the act of demanding better working conditions has proved costly for certain workers.

On October 27, a United Auto Workers member, the union currently protesting low pay and long hours at a John Deere distribution plant in Illinois, was struck and killed by a car on his way to the picket line.

Across the country, employees en masse are striking to protest unsafe conditions, long hours and low pay. A strike at a Kellog’s manufacturing plants over low wages and 12-16 hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week, has workers facing off against their richer and more powerful employers.

According to Dan Osborn, president of the Local 50G union, quoted in the Forbes article above, Kellog’s CEO saw a twenty percent increase in his compensation between 2020 and 2021, while factory workers’ pay was cut by $13 an hour.

For his part, according to multiple outlets such as Fox Business and Yahoo Finance, actor and Rust producer Alec Baldwin has an estimated net worth of $60 million.

While both reports cite the notoriously unreliable, the question for employers that remains is simple: How much money is a human life worth?

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