By Arthur J. Miller
Well dear sisters and fellow workers, I got all the paperwork today, along with a copy of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Screwed again! I feel like yelling out, "enough already! I am completely convinced that the capitalist system, its puppet government and the sellout business unions ain't got one ounce of concern for us working folks. You all can stop trying to prove your point!"
There I was working a union job that had some of the worse safety conditions I had ever seen. The problem this time was the gangway, the means of getting on to the ship. Even since the ship I worked hit the water off the ways there has been problems with the gangway.. You see there is this little thing called tides, and when the tide is out the ship is much lower in the water and we have been forced to climb from the gangway down to the ship.
At that point someone has to stand on the backside of the gangway to keep it from going down for there ain't nothing holding the other end up. After a while they changed that because some of the white hats were unwilling to board the ship under those conditions. So they lifted the gangway up to the top of one of the houses on the ship, then you had to make a hard right turn on to another gangway across to another house and down some steps.
The ship had been going out on sea trials, which meant each time it came back in they had to reconstruct the gangway. As fate had it play out, one morning, after it had come in from sea trials the night before, this old yardbird comes on to the ship, makes the hard right turn, and the gangway was not tied down and it slid sending me airborne and only by grabbing a mask kept me from hitting the deck below. I pulled myself up and cursed all existence. Those that know me well can testify that when I am in a state of rage I am a fearful sight and it is best to just stand aside and let me pass, and that everyone did so that I could hobble back off the ship.
I twisted my ankle, about a foot up my leg had swollen up to about the size of a lemon and from 6 inches below my knee up to around the middle of my knee it was all swollen up and cut up. I would guess that it was only my anger that got me off that damn ship.
The doctor gave me a much of painkillers, a knee restraint, a set of crutches and told me to see him in a week. I have been back to the doctor three times and he keeps on saying that he can't tell what damage there may be to my knee until the swelling goes down, since the damn thing still bulges out the size of a baseball. The doctor says I'll be out about 6 weeks depending on if there is bad damage to my knee.
So know I come to my wage compensation. I am covered by the Loneshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act because I was injured on the water. Now that damn piece of capitalist propaganda sounds real nice, compensation for lost wages. But when you get into the fine print and find out how they set that compensation of lost wages you’re in for a shock. They base it on the wages, not even your taxed income, you made in a year. Unless you have worked your job for a year it has nothing to do with your lost wages. Well it so happens that a year ago I was laid up with a back injury that I got at an oil refinery and between the time that I got back to being able to work and going to work at this shipyard I had little employment. So what they based my compensation on was my 6 months at the shipyard which means I get the bare minimum which ain't shit. I can make more money working at the local day labor slave mart. And it sure the hell don't come close to compensating me for my lost wages. And, as most of you know, as a worker on the job, you can't sue your boss over your lost wages.
I went down to my local union hall to pay up my dues and I asked the BA about it. He said that is just the way the law is. I asked him why the union does not insist that someone inspect the gangway before we use it? He told me that I was lucky just to have that job, but I did have his sympathy.
Now I have to ask this question. Since this Act covers a lot of union workers and in my industry it is hard to land a job that is year round, and some of the longshoremen, mostly the casual laborers, don't work year round, why in the hell have not the unions turned the screws on the politicians to make the Act truly compensates all workers for their real lost wages? I believe the answer will be found in the aristocracy of labor. Where some workers are given more of the damn pie, while other workers get the leftover crumbs.
Well dear folks there ain't no doubt about it, capitalism, its puppet government and the business unions cannot be reformed. There is just too damn much built up against us working folks to be able to ever change that system into something that works for us. Again I realize that we working folks can only depend on each other and too hell with all the rest, it ain't worth saving. Knock the whole damn thing down, dump all the bosses off our backs and rebuild our society into one that gives a damn about those that do the work.