may(day a)hem | 2007 | about
Philbrook Museum of Art
Tulsa, OK, [Sponsored by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition]
Performance of sawing and rocking and ranting
Announcements, rates, and the state, of workers, prisoners; of "US".
Dedicated to Adam, the imprisoned, and to the dead and maimed of McWane Industries.
Reginald Elston was an electrician who had served in the Navy and had a baby daughter. In need of work, he took a maintenance job at Union Foundry in Anniston, Ala.
On Aug. 22, 2000, while he was working at a conveyor belt that was running and unguarded, Elston was yanked head first into a machine, where he died with his left hand just inches away from a safety shutdown switch.
According to his daughter and twin brother, Rolan Hoskin was desperate for work and had nowhere else to turn. He was divorced and in debt when, in May 2000, he took a maintenance job on the graveyard shift at Tyler Pipe.
"He was always saying how dangerous it was out there," his brother Nolan recalls. "Really, the training wasn't adequate. Nobody showed nobody how to do nothing. You know, they just -- you're on your own."
Working alone at four in the morning, with little experience, Hoskin entered a sand pit to adjust a moving, unguarded conveyor belt -- a dangerous and illegal, but routine, practice at the plant. The machine grabbed his arm.
Jerry Hopson died a long slow death after a 1996 accident that happened at the Tyler Pipe plant. As he was taking a familiar shortcut across an unguarded machine, the machine started up and crushed him.
Ira Cofer was a mechanic at Tyler Pipe Company in Tyler, Texas. In January 1997, as he was working around an unguarded moving conveyor, one of his sleeves became entangled in the machinery. His arm was pulled under the belt system and trapped there.
Because of layoffs, Cofer was working alone at the time. He watched helplessly as his left arm slowly disintegrated. "The belt rubbed it all down to the bone and took all my flesh off," he recalls.
The report of his accident is graphic: "Cofer was missing for more than two and a half hours, yet he was crying out for help the entire time. When he was finally heard, they found him standing on top of his hard hat, trying to relieve the pressure on his arm."
After Cofer's accident, four more amputations occurred at Tyler Pipe.
On Oct. 29, 2002 -- in the middle of an OSHA inspection -- Guadalupe Garcia was crushed between a truck and a metal bin at Tyler Pipe. Garcia was nearly cut in half by the incident and doctors fought for days to save his crushed legs and pelvis. It took hundreds of units of blood to keep Garcia alive, and one week after the accident both of his legs were amputated. The accident is still being investigated.
Marcos Lopez says that every morning his day begins with pain. Now 45 years old, he has worked at the Tyler Pipe foundry since high school. In March 2002, he suffered a serious back injury while working on a pipe molding machine. Like many of the other 4,600 McWane workers hurt on the job since 1995, Lopez is struggling with his disability.
"I work all my life," he says. "I put all my time, my energy. I'm a dedicated worker. Never been late and everything. And I feel destroyed. Destroyed."
Michelle Sankowsky, a nurse hired by Tyler Pipe to bring soaring workers' compensation costs under control, was there when Lopez was injured. "He was obviously in an extreme amount of pain," she recalls. "There was not any position or anything we could do to alleviate his -- you can't even call it discomfort. It was just flat out pain. He was in actual shock."
However, instead of calling an ambulance and sending Lopez to a hospital, skeptical company managers sent him in a van to a private clinic under contract to Tyler Pipe, where he was diagnosed with back strain and given an ice pack and some pain medication. Company records show that as Lopez was sitting at home, plant managers were discussing putting him under surveillance to see if he was faking his injury.
After ten days of agony, Lopez returned to the clinic and asked for an X-ray, which revealed that his back was broken. According to Sankowsky, even after the X-ray, Lopez was not hospitalized. "They did not refer him to a surgeon," she says, "and, in fact, they did not tell Mr. Lopez himself that he had a compression fracture of the spine. I said, 'Why do you not tell this gentleman that he's got a compression fracture of the spine?' And they said to me, 'Well, then he'd know how hurt he was.'"
It was a full 25 days after his accident before Lopez finally had surgery that attempted to repair his damaged back with screws and a plate. The owner of the clinic where Lopez was initially treated says that Lopez "got the care that he needed." McWane suggests that Lopez is a malingerer. A medical examination by the state of Texas says that he is healing, but will be partially disabled for life.