Unions protect workers. OSHA protects … contractors?


What is a life worth? According to Oregon OSHA, it seems, $5,400. That was the fine levied by state worker safety agency after a worker was killed on the job Jan. 3 at a construction site in West Linn. As reported by The Oregonian Aug. 28, Santos Amador Chacon Geminiano was compacting gravel at the bottom of a sloped street when a heavy-duty loader bringing gravel rolled down the hill. The 16-ton vehicle had both faulty brakes and a nonfunctioning horn. It hit an excavator, whose bucket swung out and struck two workers, and then it rolled over and crushed Chacon Geminiano to death.

OSHA’s investigation found that Munitor Construction, the Portland-based excavation company, had failed to ensure that the machine was inspected by a competent person—or that it had a functioning horn and brakes. It was the fourth time since 2017 that the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division had cited Munitor for serious safety violations. In 2018, it was fined $11,200 “for failing to create a protective system to avoid cave-ins in a trench where laborers were working or provide workers with a means of exiting the trench in an emergency,” The Oregonian reported.

Munitor has also found by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to have committed wage theft, withholding thousands of dollars from six workers in 2019; the agency is considering barring it from bidding on public contracts.

Reading about OSHA’s kid glove treatment of a serial offender Painters District Council 5 rep Scott Oldham (above center) was infuriated. 

“Nobody ever holds them accountable,” Oldham told the Labor Press.

At Oldham’s invitation, members and officers of Painters Local 10 and several other building trades unions visited Oregon OSHA’s headquarters with picket signs to express their disgust at such a paltry fine. They set up at the parking lot entrance. Some people watched them from a second story window, but no one came out to talk, and it wasn’t clear anyone was even working in the office that morning. 

Read the Oregonian’s full investigation here.



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