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I quit my job today....(82 posts)

I quit my job today....empacher6seat
Jul 15, 2003 9:52 PM
Well, one of them, at least.
Besides being a rowing coach and a grocery store clerk, I was working as a painter for the summer to help pay for this years comming tuition. It was a student run painting business that only employees students. I was working on this house that was built on a hill, with one side of the roof around 20 feet of the ground, with the other side being well over 30 feet. Our 32 foot ladder was at another job site, so my manager told me to get on the roof from the accessable side, then hang off the roof on the high side to paint underneith the gutters. We had no harness or safety equipment, and I would be the only one on site because my manager was leaving to do an estimate. In order to reach under the gutters, I would have to lean pretty far over the edge of the roof, which was quite steep.

I told him I would not hang off the roof unless we had proper safety equipment, and he started giving me the "Oh, I've done stuff like this before, it's a standard thing you have to do once in a while, blah blah". I still refused, and a small argument ensued, which I broke by saying "If you go up first and show me how to do this properly and safely, I'll do it."

He said he couldn't, because he had to leave to do an estimate and he didn't want to be late. When I said no to the job again, he said "Well if you're not willing to do the job, I can't promise you'll be on my favorites list for future jobs", implying that I would not be asked to work that often, or I'd even be fired. I beat him to the punch and quit right there, grabbing my bike (ahhhh) and riding home.

He was obviously quite pissed off, because I was the only one on site that day, so the clients would be mad with the lack of progress at their house, and I was a very responsible, hard worker. but for a summer job, making $10/hour (Canadian), I figured it wasn't worth the risk. I remember one time when my supervisor was simultaniously violating 6 workers compensation rules. He was working on a ladder with a broken rung (1), that wasn't tied down (2), operaterating a sprayer with no goggles (3) or dust mask (4)while smoking a cigerette (5) and being under the influence of pot (6). Yikes.

I'm almost contemplating calling the local workers compensation board and asking them to drop by the site for a little inspection tomorrow before someone gets hurt. Do you think that would be a good idea, or would it be seen as a tasteless act of revenge?
CONGRATS!!Fender
Jul 16, 2003 7:27 AM
What you did was brave and yur ex-boss had it coming.

Now as for call the board, I'll put it this way. If one of your co-workers was in your same situation (i.e. knowing about safety violations) but refused to take notice about it and you got hurt, how would you feel?

Don't do it out of revenge, but do it from a safety standpoint.

My only question is, why did you wait until you quit to consider reporting this to the board?
CONGRATS!!Jon Billheimer
Jul 16, 2003 7:59 AM
Fender's absolutely right. I think I know which company you're referring to. My college age son worked for that, or a similar company, here in Edmonton last year--with similar problems. They were in violation of both safety and labour codes. Being an employer I also advised him how to handle the situation: quit, threaten negative publicity and a trip to the labour board. The upshot was he got money which was owing to him but had been unpaid.

You should immediately report your concerns to Occupational Health and Safety, submitting a written affidavit of your experiences and concerns. These hire-a-student outfits are going to end up getting someone seriously hurt or killed one day. BTW it is not only your right, but also your obligation, to refuse to work under unsafe conditions.
Which company?empacher6seat
Jul 16, 2003 9:24 AM
I believe there are two major student painting companyies, in BC at least, but I know they opperate in other provinces. Their acronyms are SWP and CP. I worked for SWP. They're both pretty careless with labour laws (overtime, I didn't get stat pay for working on Canada Day, etc), but being a contracted worker I don't know if those laws even apply to us, because we aren't actually employed by the painting company itself, we are contracted workers for our managers, who are employees of the company.

Apparently someone from CP broke their neck last year when a ladder that was placed on a shallow angle on wet grass slid out from underneith the painter.
Which company?Jon Billheimer
Jul 17, 2003 12:45 PM
I believe it was Student Works. One more comment in addition to my post below, even if you were legally a subcontractor--which you're not--your employer is still liable for your safety under "prime contractor" legislation that applies in B.C. as well as Alberta. Therefore, it is up to the prime contractor to ensure that his employees observe all safety regulations and safe practices and procedures. In either case the employer is in violation of safety codes and potentially liable.

Bottom line, you did the right thing to quit. You should also report this employer. Both companies you named are notorious.
thanks for the infoempacher6seat
Jul 17, 2003 2:01 PM
I think I will report him.

And yes, Student Works was the company I worked for as well.
CONGRATS!!empacher6seat
Jul 16, 2003 9:13 AM
Well, until now most of the safety violations have been little petty things (aside from the one about my supervisor breaking 6 rules at once), but nothing that would put yourself at seriously at risk. I guess it never really hit home to me how careless this company is.
good for youColnagoFE
Jul 16, 2003 8:08 AM
no reason to risk life and limb for $10/hr. I don't know how Canadian labor law works to comment on whether to call an inspection or not.
That's what you get for being non-union.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 8:33 AM
There's nobody to stand up for you so you don't have equal negotiating power with your employer. He gets to set all of the rules and you have to either accept everything or reject everything.

You personally must take responsibility for your own safety. That's always much easier to say over the internet than it is to practice in the heat of the moment in real life. Laws and all of that other stuff don't matter. In the end, if you don't take responsibility for your own safety, nobody else is going to worry about keeping you safe either.

Now I know nothing about Canadian laws or work practices because I live in the US. Assuming I needed work, I'd ask the boss for a different, safer assignment. When he says "No" I'd just march myself down to the Employment Security Office to apply for Unemployment on the basis that I was laid off for lack of work. He can contest it if he wants, but he knows that then all of his safety violations will be brought to light and he won't want that to happen.
Neo-cons & Libertarians: Explain how this proves OSHA's badSilverback
Jul 16, 2003 8:39 AM
Pretty quiet from the conservative side on this one. Where are all the people who argue that business knows best and can police itself? No attacks on government interference with private enterprise? That contractor's got to make a living, doesn't he? What's it matter if he paralyzes a college student occasionally?
Hey Silverback, you forgetOldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 8:50 AM
these are the people who think Joe McCarthy is a maligned NATIONAL HERO, and all liberals are traitors guilty of treason. They almost certainly DO believe the crap you said above.

You forget how un-American these people's politics are.
O.K. - I'll take this one,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:07 AM
What we have here is a GREAT example of the labor market working as it should. If our young hero were presented with the same set of risky circumstances, says he will quit, and the boss offers $100/hour to do the work, does he?

What has occurred is that the hero has decided that $10/hour is not worth the safety risk he would be taking on. The two solutions are: (a) mitigate that risk by providing safety equipment; or (b) compensate the laborer for taking the risk.

The boss has likewise made a rational decision that he can hire young people (who are less risk-averse) and assign them risky tasks for relatively little pay.

I see the labor market working here, without OSHA intervention - it seems that the market knows best after all.
Uh - Did the house get painted? (nm)Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 9:09 AM
I don't know,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:14 AM
That part of the story didn't come out. But I'll bet a nickel that the house will be painted by somebody, if not the protagonist.
Pfffft.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 9:28 AM
You don't know any better than I do.

At the last information, the clients house wasn't getting painted, the contractor wasn't getting paid and our hero was out of a job. I don't see any winners here.

My prediction is the contractor will free up the proper ladder and get somebody else to do the job. He's still lost the services of a good worker and out protagonist is still out of a job. Still looks like a lose-lose deal to me.
who said he was a good worker,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:32 AM
From his perspective, he lost the services of a wuss who's probably going to file a complaint against him. If I were his boss, I'd be happy to see him go.

The winner of this dubious contest is the person who gets the job vacated by our hero.
Why the boss did.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 9:44 AM
Up until that point, he was on the "favorites list for future jobs."
We don't know that,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:52 AM
This is getting hilarious. We only know that the boss threatened that he would NOT be on the list if he didn't do the job. He never said that he was already on the list. Maybe this job was the final test that would have put him on the "good worker" list. He failed.
It IS hilarious.OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:09 AM
'He failed.'

In defense of your beloved free market -- free market uber alles! -- you've put yourself in a position of defending, as a matter of deep philosophical principle, some a-hole who's trying to make a college kid break his neck, just for the price of a ladder or the gas to go get it!
If it's so cheap why doesn't the college kid buy his own ladder?TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:14 AM
Is this some kind of magic ladder. In my dream/theory world, the cost of the safety equipment should be exactly equal to the risk premium that he's being paid, so he should be able to afford the safety equipment himself, if he wants it so badly.
Why in God's name SHOULD he?OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:22 AM
The cost of safety equipment, PLUS the cost of medical insurance, PLUS the cost of disability insurance, PLUS the cost of long-term care insurance, PLUS ... Jesus, it would go on and on.

PLUS, shouldn't you just get a little for YOURSELF? If you're going to be parapalegic because of the risk you assume on a job, it seems the 'risk premium' in the salary should cover things to make your life more enjoyable for, say, 50 years. After all, we work to provide enjoyment to ourselves too, and wage demands reflect that. An approipriate risk premium wage would be hundreds of dollars an hour.

Just buy the damn ladder.
It's his neck, he ought to be responsible for it (nm)TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:29 AM
Why in God's name SHOULD he?Jon Billheimer
Jul 17, 2003 12:40 PM
For you armchair Adam Smith types, in B.C. labour law the "subcontract" arrangement that these companies make with their employees is illegal. In my son's case he was coerced to sign an illegal subcontractor contract which, when I threatened them with both legal action and adverse publicity, was quickly waived. Because of the closeness of supervision and the fact that all assets are owned by the companies themselves there is a master-servant relationship and the companies are obliged to not only obey the law but also to maintain WCB coverage for these employees,and pay and/or deduct appropriate payroll taxes itself. In real world terms, TJ, your risk/benefit free market analysis is simply absurd if not immoral in my opinion. The reason that governments bring in labour laws and regulations is to control the selfish, greedy, and immoral behaviour of employers. Not everything in this world is reducible to unit costs of production or risk/reward ratios. There is such a thing as non-economic values, human life being one of them.
Not the first time I've been called immoral,TJeanloz
Jul 17, 2003 12:47 PM
And it probably won't be the last.

There is no such thing as non-economic value. The laws do nothing but distort the labor market, and in many cases, make everybody worse off.

I am personally offended by your assertion that all employers are selfish, greedy and immoral. I might be immoral by your lofty standards, but the selfish and greedy labels are (I think) pretty hard to stick on me.
Not the first time I've been called immoral,Jon Billheimer
Jul 17, 2003 1:17 PM
I didn't say that all employers are self and greedy. I said that employment laws serving the public interest are there to protect against those employers who are selfish and greedy.

I am an employer. I employ upwards of 500 people. And neither I nor my company fall in that category. But we do realize that a business is more than an economically driven unit. It is a culture which embodies both economic and social values. As an employer I have a CHOICE in how to run my business. And my choice includes quality of life, conscience, and other values not strictly reducible to the bottom line such as service, pride in quality of workmanship, and the happiness and welfare of myself and my employees.

That everything is reducible to dollars is a philosophical choice and assumption that one makes, not an eternal verity.
I didn't say that everything is reducible to dollars,TJeanloz
Jul 17, 2003 1:25 PM
Merely that everything has an economic value. Non-economists often, mistakenly, believe that economics has really anything to do with currency.

I would argue that everything has a level of utility - and positive utility could well be non-monetary.

You recognize that as an employer, you have a choice in how to run your business, as does every other employer. But don't employees have a choice in who they work for? Look at the labor market in 1999 for web page designers. Should there have been laws in place to prevent greedy HTML programmers from taking advantage of corporations? Greed is not unique to the employer.
I didn't say that everything is reducible to dollars,Jon Billheimer
Jul 17, 2003 2:13 PM
TJ, I agree that everything has a level of utility. There is also a hierarchy of things we value, such as human life and limb. Where the greed of a party to a transaction has to be limited or regulated is where there's a power imbalance, such as between an employee and an employer. As I recall from my undergrad days sometime prior to the last ice age, free market theory--which everyone seems to hang their hats on--assumed not only equal access to markets but also roughly equal power of all participants, which government through the rule of law was supposed to safeguard.

I do a lot of my work in the oil patch and other primary resource industries. This particular environment is where major safety concerns were spawned in Canada, leading to changes in legislation which have placed a heavy onus on employers to enforce worker education programs and to introduce safe work practices and procedures. And actually the driving motive on the part of companies, unions, and compensation boards has been economic. WCB premiums and unfunded liabilities have been on the rise.

Unfortunately there are employers--who are in the minority--who will sacrifice the safety and welfare of their employees in their drive to maximize profits. The companies which empacher referred to are among the worst. They routinely flout the law, coerce and manipulate their employees to work under unsafe conditions, and financially defraud their employees. Yes, employees have a choice who to work for. But that does not excuse lawbreaking and simply outrageous behaviour on the part of the employer.

Maybe all this is part of what separates us panty waste liberals from the more conservative-minded. If so, then I really don't mind the liberal label that I've acquired on this board.
As an admirer of your position in this discussionbicyclerepairman
Jul 18, 2003 12:08 PM
with the 'Ayn Rand Reading Room' permit me to remind you that the term is 'panty-waist'.
As an admirer of your position in this discussionJon Billheimer
Jul 20, 2003 11:45 AM
It was Live Steam, I believe, one of the more reactionary of this rather unbelievable lot, who coined that particular spelling in order to highlight the fact that us liberals are all a bunch of tax and spend profligates--completely ignoring the fiscally irresponsible, hypocritical and arrogant bunch of corporate nazis currently running Washington.
Actually, that comes back my original point.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 10:45 AM
It looks to me like TJeanloz visualizes an employment situation in which the responsibilities of the employer and employee are clearly stated and in which both sides have examined the market, have agreed upon fair compensation and determined at what cost they are each willing to assume whatever risks exist. Furthermore, the two parties have equal power to negotiate.

That's not a dream/theory world at all. That's what a union contract is. Free market at it's fully informed fairest.
I would be fine with unions,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:54 AM
I would be fine with unions if employers were also able to collude to withold work. If they can rackateer, why can't we?
Well, Jesus, for one thing ... oh never mind. nmOldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:57 AM
Actually, they can and sometimes do.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:11 AM
It's called a lockout but you already knew that, didn't you?
That's a single employer,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:13 AM
When a single employer shuts down, it's a lockout. What I'm talking about is every employer in a 50 mile radius shuts down - which is the equivilent of a good strike.
I don't understand (nm)Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:17 AM
O.K.TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:24 AM
A good strike starves a facility of its labor force completely. Unless scabs can be recruited, and get across picket lines, the Company will go bankrupt unless it caves. The union is acting as a monopoly - holding back a necessary good to artificially drive the price up.

What if Companies colluded to prevent people from going about their business? We think labor prices are too high in Massachusetts, so we [the Companies] all get together and negotiate with the head of the union, and say: we aren't going to pay more than $10/hour. There's nowhere else you can go to find work, take it or leave it.

The situation now is that employees have alternative sources of employment, but with Union contracts, the employer can only go to the Union for employees.
Hog wash!Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 1:20 PM
During a strike the workers aren't exactly living the life of Riley either. Essentially, they're living on savings. They'll go bankrupt unless they cave just like the company will. Most workers can't just go to work someplace else because most jobs aren't very portable in the short run. That's why, when industries close, all of the employees have to retrain. I could argue that, during a strike, the company is withholding a necessary commodity (work) in order to drive the cost artificially low.

Companies can use alternate sources of employees, but the replacement worker's risk/benefit line probably goes up when they have to cross a picket line. I'd guess that approximately equals the opportunities of striking employees to find alternate employment.

The normal result is for both sides to negotiate in good faith until they find the line where they can agree. It looks to me like getting that done quickly is always going to be in the long term best interests of both parties.

I'm a teamster and, at least partially because of my age, I've got pretty limited employment options. Fact is, the company that I work for doesn't need me as a person but they do need reliable drivers. Without the union, I'd have no negotiating power what-so-ever. With it, I have a voice. We just recently settled on a new contract. It's OK, but it isn't as favorable as the last one was. That's basically because the economy as a whole is down and the majority felt the money isn't there to be had this time. I guess that's free enterprise in action.
LOL! Bring it on, as someone once said!OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 11:20 AM
I have no problem whatsoever with that. And I say that as an old Wobbly unionist. Big huge crises like that tend to crystalize public opinion, and it almost invariably comes down on the side of the workers.
LOL! Bring it on, as someone once said!TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:28 AM
I don't know that they do always come down on the side of the workers. I know a lot of people, even in liberal Massachusetts (which secretly went conservative while nobody was looking), who are really irritated by the unions. We had a big flap this week about the firemen's contract, and I think public opinion is not as steeled on the side of the overpaid union worker as you might think.

The problem, at least here, is that there's little sympathy for they guys who got a union gig through a family connection (or bribe) and now get paid $200k for 20 hours of work.
Oh sure, but see what happens ifOldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 11:34 AM
every business in a 50-mile radius shuts down to force concessions from workers. I'm doubtful folks would rush to side with the poor downtrodden bosses.
So who signed that contract?Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:47 AM
Maybe their risk/benefit line was different than yours. Whose to say your analysis is right and their's is wrong?

Fire fighters risk their own lives in order to save other people's lives and property. It's also hard physical work. What's an investment banker risk to earn $200k - pretty printed paper?
So who signed that contract?TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:54 AM
First, Mayor Menino signed the contract in an election year when the City had too much money. One of the flaws of our system no doubt.

But for your other question: What does an investment banker risk to earn $200k? How about these for starters:

any meaningful social relationships;
any relationship with his (her) children;
any job security;
any free time, whatsoever;
weekends;
nights;

I could probably come up with a few more. It isn't all fun and games on this side of the fence.
Election year?Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 12:15 PM
What am I missing here? It sounds to me like that must have been what the mayor thought the people wanted. I can see how that might've have skewed the mayor's risk/benefit line, but I don't see how you can call that a flaw.
I don't think he was up for reelection,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 12:30 PM
It was before I lived here, but as I understand it, it was half a step up from buying votes for the Democratic party. I think, basically, the City was flush with cash, and could afford the contract when they signed it - but the union has finagled it so that it's a lot more expensive than it was.

The issue is that the firemen negotiated a change from 5 paid sick days to 15, and said that they were dedicated professionals, and they only ever called in sick when they were bedridden, so it wasn't a big deal. Fine. Well, it turns out that the firemen in Boston are usually sick when the weather is really nice out. Almost half the force was sick on the 4th of July. They were all better by the 7th. And then they have the audacity to say that the City was at risk over the 4th because the department was under-staffed.
So explain.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 1:37 PM
How do you "buy votes" with something that the voters don't want? Somebody must have thought this contract was a good idea. How do you "finagle" a written contract? The letter of the contract didn't change, it is what it is.
So explain.TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 2:00 PM
You buy votes by garnering favor with a political machine that can effect large voter turnout in particular precincts.

You finagle a written contract by misrepresenting issues. For example, my contract entitles me to 10 "personal days" per year, in addition to my vacation. The expectation is that these 10 days are available if I NEED them, but they are not granted vacation time. While I could use one to extend my 4th of July weekend, that is not the intent, and everybody understands that.

The firemen's contract stipulated that there be some severe illness or emergency in order for them to take those days - and there was a surprisingly high incidence of illness on the 4th of July. The thing that irritates people isn't that they are taking sick days when they aren't sick, because we accept that a lot of dishonest people do that. It's that they chose to be dishonest on one of the days of the year that firefighters are most commonly needed. They sacrificed public safety - which they claim to support - so that they could have another day at the beach.
Those are both management issues.Spoke Wrench
Jul 17, 2003 4:42 PM
You shouldn't blame labor if management doesn't do their job or does it poorly.

While we're at it, I want to challange your 20 hour per week statement. I assume the Bostom Fire Department is on the A,B,C division schedule in which they are on duty for 24 hours and off duty for 48. I don't know what's a fair way to judge the time they spend sleeping at the fire station, but I do know that they jump up right away any time the alarm goes off. That's not the same as being asleep at home is it?
Employees lying is a management issue? (nm)TJeanloz
Jul 18, 2003 5:01 AM
That's why we have soccer referrees.Spoke Wrench
Jul 18, 2003 5:33 AM
In the early days of soccer, it was considered to be a "gentleman's" sport and, as such, did not require any officiating because any true gentleman would admit to his own fouls. It didn't work.

Real life doesn't work that way either. That's why we have work supervisors. Their job is to cry "foul" when a worker doesn't follow the rules. If a soccer referree doesn't call any fouls, you can be sure that I'm going to throw a few elbows.
That's where the whole bruhaha originated,TJeanloz
Jul 18, 2003 6:13 AM
The story came out because the fire department management had the audacity to suspend ~20 firemen for taking "excessive" suspect sick time (which the chronically ill argued, their contract allowed them to do).

The union then comes out and says that the City is endangering public safety, because the fire department can't afford to suspend ~20 people.

One thing leads to another, another leads to a Boston Globe investigation, and suddenly the people are pretty pissed off at both the mayor for signing this retarded contract, and the firemen, for violating the public trust.
So the universe is unfolding as it should. (nm)Spoke Wrench
Jul 18, 2003 7:42 AM
you must be talking about the bulgers.rufus
Jul 17, 2003 8:08 AM
whitey isn't the only crook in that family.
Actually, since you brought it up.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 10:19 AM
His words were a bit more positive than that. He said that he couldn't promise he would be on the favored list if he refused to do the task.
I'm sure he'll have someone new there today (nm)empacher6seat
Jul 16, 2003 9:17 AM
OK, I'll return the punt --OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 9:15 AM
Suppose our hero isn't a college student with options but a young father of three with a sickly wife and no marketable skills, and 10 bucks an hour is a great wage for him.

The market should rule here too, I'm sure? Workplace safety rules just simply not apply anywhere, to anyone, for any reason? I just want to clarify. The college-kid-with-options example isn't generally applicable enough.
Yeah,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:26 AM
What your saying with your example is that the young father has a market wage of less than $10, but can be compensated for the additional risk of the painting job with a salary of $10/hr - it's a "great wage", so he takes it. This is the market working. The flipside of this is that the contractor says: I'll invest $500 in making the workplace safer, but then I can only pay you $7.50/hr.

There isn't really a problem in this scenario, because the laborer knows about the risk, and can make an informed decision about whether or not it's worth $10/hr. The REAL problems (where OSHA is necessary) is where there is imperfect information about the danger of a job. If the employee doesn't know how dangerous the situation is - but the company does - there is an arbitrage opportunity where the company isn't compensating for the risk, and the employee doesn't know any better. That is a real problem.
All righty.OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 9:32 AM
Let's ponder this: Is crime an expression of the free market? I don't mean murder. I mean economic crime -- theft, robbery, embezzlement. How does the wanton endangement of workers differ? Or does it?
Yes, I think it probably is,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:47 AM
Crime, even murder, I would argue occur following an analysis on the part of the criminal of (a) the probable reward; (b) the probability of being caught; and, (c) the likely punishment if he (she) is caught. I don't think that wanton endangerment of workers does differ. However, I would argue that as long as the dangers are known to and accepted by the worker as part of the job, the worker has assumed the risks involved. It is, as I point out above, a bigger issue when the worker is unaware of the danger he is put in.
'Has assumed the risks involved.'OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:02 AM
Your neo-Darwinist analysis has the attraction of being simple, consistent and relentless, but it sails right past daily human reality.

Taking a job to support yourself and your family isn't like jumping out of an airplane. Skydiving is a hobby or a sport or whatever -- it's recreational, anyway -- and you can sign a little paper saying you 'assume the risks involved.' Absolutely appropriate. No one HAS to jump out of an airplane.

But people HAVE to work. Anyone who's evolved past a primitive social Darwinism would probably conclude that the most basic social contract -- society, civilzation, whatever you want to call it -- demands that employers, who are gaining economically from the labor of workers, not commit the crime of wantonly endangering them.

It would also be assumed, in a civilized setting, that workers are in an unequal position -- they are required to work to survive; it's not a hobby -- and should not be forced to sign away their right not to have a crime committed on them, just out of economic necessity.
But it's a two way street,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:10 AM
As any unionist knows, while a man cannot survive without work, a business cannot survive without laborers.

Everybody has to take some risk in their lives. I'm currently being exposed to the risk of carpel-tunnel syndrome (my employer has not offered me the safety equipment that is one of those foamy wrist thingys), and (if I were being paid at all) I have accepted that as a risk of doing my job.

The paint company is no different. You are right that people have to work - but people also have to take risks. The risk-free world you describe is impossible, everything we do has risk, and these cannot all be mitigated, regardless of the safety features. The extreme is that your boss spends $100,000 on an ergonometric desk, chair, and wrist rest, and then can't afford to pay you anything, because he's spent so much making sure you don't get hurt. You would have been happier with a steel desk, wood chair and $99,995 (how much do those wrist things cost). But your employer took a vow to protect you - so you've got the safety equipment, but no money.
Not describing a risk free world.OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:17 AM
I'm talking about wanton endangerment of a worker. Obviously there is risk everywhere, in every undertaking. Obviously you accept that as a condition of getting out the door every morning. Obviously too, there is a line you finally cross, when the risk exceeds any standard of reasonable expectation.

This situation seems as clear cut as it gets, as far as being way beyond that line. AND it would be easily correctible without financially harming the company.
But every person has a different lineTJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:39 AM
I'm sure the contractor (well, not "sure", but I hope) thought it was perfectly safe and reasonable - note his response that: "Oh, I've done stuff like this before, it's a standard thing you have to do once in a while, blah blah". Clearly the contractor believes that this is a "standard" procedure that is not all that risky - it is the protagonist who believes it is risky, and he probably knows less about painting than the contractor, no?
Ever worked for a contractor?OldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 10:42 AM
"Hey college boy, git up there and ..."

We'll just agree to disagree on this. We clearly have different notions of what constitutes human civilization.
I own one...TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 10:45 AM
I think it's well established fact that we have different notions of what constitutes human civilization.

Actually, I think our human civilization notions are probably similar, it's how to achieve the goals that differ.
But every person has a different lineSpoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:06 AM
If everyone has a different line, then the facts regarding the ultimate nature of the risk aren't known by at least one and possibly both parties. If that's the case, the free market can't function accurately in this case.
Why not?TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:11 AM
I don't understand that at all. If the probability of severe injury is 1:3, that is the risk. If the worker's line is at 1:2, he'll do the job, if it's 1:4, he won't. The contractor may have his line at 1:2, and thus know that there are people out there with similar risk profiles to his own.

This is exactly how commodities and futures markets function (and to a large degree equity markets), and they are as close to free and efficient (though not perfect) as we have.
OK, here's what that sounds like to me.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:34 AM
Everybody always has imperfect information. Since people have differing perceptions of the situation, we get to place out bets and take our chances. Whoever's information is closest to the actual wins and the other guy loses. Kind of like betting on a football game.

It's just easier for me to take when we're only talking about money than when we're talking about breaking necks. I can always make more money, necks are only expendable when it's somebody else's neck. I think that, for whatever reason, you are able to look at this more objectively than I do.
I think you've got the concept,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:37 AM
It is quite a bit like betting on a football game. I, too, only have one neck, which I would be willing to risk for the right price.

It's sort of the same as health insurance - which, though I can afford, I don't have.
So do me a favor.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 11:52 AM
Wear your bicycle helmet. I'd miss you if you scrambled your brain and I would't want to have to pay for your disability. Oh, and stay away from painting houses. I've done some of that and I think that your risk assessment line may be off by a little.
You will be pleased to know,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 11:55 AM
You will be happy to know that I almost never wear a helmet when I ride.

I'm pretty sure I could still pay for my own disability.
Well, you're wrong.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 12:05 PM
I'd still miss you if you scrambled your brain. Not that it matters, but I really wouldn't care about the money, maybe that's why I don't have very much.
And I would miss you if yours were scrambled (nm)TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 12:07 PM
That's always been the problem withOldEdScott
Jul 16, 2003 11:41 AM
ideologues and theorists. They can't account for the broken necks. It has to not bother them.

That's why I got out of the ideology and theory business, and became a messy, compromising, sell-out politician dealing with the real world of human necks, not just ideas.
You couldn't be more correct!Steve98501
Jul 17, 2003 11:23 AM
Ed,

"It has not to bother them." I think this accounts for my increasing tendency towards being liberal. Conservative ideology and theory has acheived 100% tolerance for the suffering of others.
But every person has a different lineempacher6seat
Jul 16, 2003 12:29 PM
He has more painting experience, yes, but it doesn't take a rocket scientiest to figure out what is dangerous and what isn't. Plus, other employees always joke about how our boss would write things off as being perfectly safe, and I was always told that "If he says he's done it before, there's a 99% chance he hasn't". He worked for proffesional painting companies, not little student run shin-digs. They have the proper scaffolding, harnesses, boom lifts etc to work at heights.
That only works in the long run.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 9:40 AM
Unfortunately, our painter has to live and work in the short run. He makes an employment decision based upon an assumption of working conditions that he percieves as safe. Suddenly, he is presented with the decision of accepting an unsafe working condition or quitting.

The employer is also working on a short run basis. I doubt anyone will argue that hanging upside down from a roof will, in the long run, produce more worker injuries than working from a safe ladder. It doesn't take much of an injury to exceed the cost of a ladder.

So what happens when an injury occurs? If his financing is too shaky to buy a ladder, my bet is the contractor will declare bankruptcy and walk away. Then the government will raise taxes on finance bankers to pay for the worker's disability.
In the free market world,TJeanloz
Jul 16, 2003 9:50 AM
In the free market construct, the worker has already accepted compensation for the risk of injury. If he is injured, he isn't owed any more, by his employer or anybody else (i.e. the government). If world were a truely efficient place, the risk premium that the employer paid to the employee would be exactly equal to the premium of a medical/disability insurance policy, which our hero would have been wise enough to purchase.

But as long as the government has his back, what incentive does he have to buy the insurance and not pocket the money?
Assumes that everybody has perfect information.Spoke Wrench
Jul 16, 2003 10:29 AM
The President of the United States in his State of the Union Speech in which, I assume every word was analyzed and examined before the speech was given, gave congress and the American people erronious information.

What chance does a college student, who I assume isn't highly experienced in the house painting trade, have of getting perfect, or even adequate safety information in a pre-employment situation?
Can't help but marvel at the efficiency of The Market. (nm)czardonic
Jul 16, 2003 9:51 AM
What does OSHA have to do with this?No_sprint
Jul 16, 2003 11:16 AM
It sounds like the guy is in Canada. Who says OSHA is bad?
jumping in late, butDougSloan
Jul 18, 2003 9:25 AM
I think he did the right thing. He sized up the risk, and turned it down. What's the issue?
re: His day will come.....jrm
Jul 16, 2003 8:45 AM
Good judgement call on your part.