The AFL-CIO released a report recently that revealed Alabama as one of the top 10 deadliest states in the country for workers.
Based on data from 2021, Alabama ranked 7th with a 5.5 percent fatality rate out of 100,000 workers. Aside from fatalities Alabama also had a 2.4 percent rate of injury or illness out of 100 workers. However, due to underreporting the true rate of injury or illness is assumed to be higher than is actually documented.
Jacob Morrison, secretary-treasurer for the North Alabama Area Labor Council, said he was not surprised about Alabama’s unsafe working conditions. Morrison told APR that the report was indicative of the lack of unionization in Alabama, right-to-work laws and zero support from politicians of either party in favor of workers.
“I would be shocked if any politicians express concern or comment on this,” Morrison said. “You know most of them are just not on the side of working people. And that’s Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are more explicit but you know the Democrats may say a couple of things but they’re not really doing anything either.”
According to the report, another problem is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lacks resources to effectively penalize workplaces. For Alabama, the average amount of money companies were forced to pay for violations was $4,501. There are also only 27 federal inspectors and zero state inspectors overseeing workplaces in Alabama.
It would take 152 years to inspect each workplace in Alabama just once. The current OSHA budget only has $3.99 allocated to protect each worker in the country.
Bren Riley, the president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, said the unions are willing to work with employers to create safer workplaces for the workers.
“We believe a safe workplace is a more productive workplace,” Riley said. “That’s what we stand for and we want everyone to leave with all of their body parts.”
Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said that there were labor laws already in effect and it was the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to handle those laws. Daniels also told APR that he was not sure if any other lawmakers had seen the report or read it.