The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Factory explosion in North Carolina

Feb 3, 2003

The day after Bush's State of the Union address there was an explosion at a West Pharmaceutical Services factory in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina. Almost immediately the TV and radio screamed about a possible terrorist attack. Local officials were quoted as saying that terrorism couldn't be ruled out.

This explosion was simply another of the regular industrial accidents that take as many a recorded 5,000 lives a year in this country and injure hundreds of thousands more. But it was another pretext for the media to try to convince us we're surrounded by enemies who are trying to kill us. And they used it.

This explosion seems to have been caused by ignitable rubber dust, a lot of which is made in the production process. Large pieces of sheet metal rose 300 feet in the air and then rained down. Walls collapsed on the 130 workers in the factory and computers flew through the air. Four workers died and 36 were injured, some critically with severe burns.

This factory was inspected last October 15 by the North Carolina Division of Occupational Safety and Health. It found 15 safety violations, of which seven were considered serious, that is, life threatening. And yet this company, which owns 23 other facilities, was fined only $9,075. Nor did the state demand immediate changes to eliminate the dangers. And it certainly didn't threaten to shut the factory down until the changes were made.

Companies put their workers in unsafe conditions – and then often fire you if you refuse to work in those unsafe conditions. And the state, which doesn't really enforce safety standards, backs up the company when you're fired.

This is the terrorism that workers face, and we face it every day.