National COSH Announces 2022 “Dirty Dozen” Unsafe Employers
After six fatalities at Bessemer, Amazon cited for the third time;
Starbucks fails to respond to COVID-19, fires workers who demand better working conditions; Dollar General fails to address workplace violence following homicides in multiple stores; fined millions by OSHA for repeat safety violations
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced today The Dirty Dozen unsafe employers of 2022. The Dirty Dozen, released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, highlights companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices.
“The Dirty Dozen are companies that needlessly expose workers to preventable hazards, leading to preventable illnesses, injuries and fatalities,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Workers who die on the job have names. During Workers’ Memorial Week, we say their names and tell their stories, because it is tragic that these lives were stolen away from families and communities. We confront this reality so that workers can gain power to win the safety improvements that will prevent further loss of life.”
The complete Dirty Dozen for 2022, in alphabetical order, are:
- Amazon, Alabama and nationwide: Six dead at Bessemer warehouse; Injury rates more than twice the industry average.
- Atlantic Coast Utilities/Laurence Moloney, Boston: Two workers dead; Company lies to get construction permits.
- Daikin America, Decatur Alabama: Three dead from toxic exposures
- Dollar General, nationwide: Workers stabbed, shot, punched and pistol-whipped; Millions on OSHA fines for unsafe stores.
- Ernst Nursery and Farms, St. Paul, Oregon: Farmworker dies during heat wave; Company tells OSHA: “Employee [should] be accountable for how they push their body.”
- Foundation Food Group/Gold Creek Foods, Gainesville Georgia: Six workers dead from nitrogen leak; Company tries to block OSHA investigation, intimidates survivors.
- Hilton Hotels, nationwide: Service cuts create safety risks for workers and guests in a high-hazard industry.
- Kingspan Light and Air, Santa Ana, California: Workers monitor indoor air at “green manufacturer,” find high levels of pollution.
- Liox Cleaners/Wash Supply Laundromat, New York City: No COVID safety protocols, no ventilation, no protections from toxic chemicals; Company shuts facility and fires workers.
- Mayfield Consumer Products, Mayfield, Kentucky: Nine dead when company keeps workers on the job during tornado.
- Refresco, Wharton New Jersey: Bottling plant workers at risk from COVID-19, chemicals and fires at firm with repeat OSHA violations
- Starbucks, nationwide: Retail workers infected, exposed to COVID-19; Corporate giant fires workers organizing for better safety conditions.
“We said from day one, this is about keeping our stores safe for workers and customers,” said Nikki Taylor, a former Starbucks worker from Memphis who was fired after she and her co-workers organized for better working conditions. Lax company policies resulted in COVID-19 spreading through the store where Taylor worked. “Sure enough, I was exposed at work and brought COVID home to my 8-year-old daughter. That’s not right.”
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Starbucks, stating that the firing of Taylor and her co-workers was illegal retaliation for the efforts to organize a union.
“I knew Dollar General had serious safety problems, and I must have really struck a nerve,” said Mary Gundel. A former store manager in Tampa, Gundel posted a Tik Tok video describing overcrowded, unsafe stores and long hours at the end of March, drawing more than 1.8 million viewers. A week later, she was fired.
“I guess they thought they could shut me up, says Gundel, “but it’s been the exact opposite, this movement is growing like wildfire.” Using the hashtag #PutInaTicket, Dollar General workers are planning a nationwide job action on May 2.
“Amazon has more care for packages and robots than its human workers like me,” said Jennifer Bates, a worker and union leader at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. “In just my first week of working at Amazon, almost two years ago, I knew that the pace of work would ultimately lead to various injuries. I would go home after work with aching knees, legs and my feet were in pain. I often worried about the long-term impact that this would have on my health working here. Sadly, many others have become permanently injured working at Amazon and tragically the pace of work has contributed to the loss of the lives of workers here as well. Amazon must treat us with dignity and respect and if they don’t change their operations, I’m afraid that more and more workers will be injured or worse lose their lives.”
“Summers were suffocating and there wasn’t much ventilation,” said Sandra Mejía, a former worker and union leader at Liox Cleaners in New York City. “Winters were frigid cold. There were even two fires.The first time, the extinguisher didn’t work and the exits were blocked. The work itself was also dangerous. We had to provide our own gloves and on several occasions one of my colleagues pinched herself on used syringes that were found in the clothes.”
Workers at Liox Cleaners joined together to form a union to address unsafe working conditions in February 2021; shortly afterwards their employer closed the facility and fired all the workers there. In February 2022, the NLRB found Liox Cleaners and its parent company, Wash Supply Laundromat, had violated federal labor law and ordered all workers reinstated with back pay.
In addition to releasing the Dirty Dozen during Worker Memorial Week, National COSH highlights stories of workers who are organizing for safety on the job throughout the year on WorkedUp.us and companion social media platforms.
National COSH has also compiled Killed at Work, the U.S. Worker Memorial Database. This partial catalog of workers killed on the job from 2014 through 2022 identifies more than 4,900 workplace fatalities, with names of workers and details of their deaths, where available.
Workers Memorial Week is a global event which remembers workers who lost their lives on the job and their families, as well as recognizing those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. The event is marked by worker actions, vigils and rallies around the world, with a focus on winning safer working conditions to avoid future preventable tragedies.
National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit nationalcosh.org. Follow us @NationalCOSH on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.