i suppose if all the laid off workers, just think positive, everything will be okay. funny, oprah and the cult of positivity aren’t advocating for mass action or a national general strike– how positive would that be!!??
i envision a world where the workers own the means of production, where human need replaces corporate greed, where we live in balance and harmony with the earth, with health care, education, social justice.
are we there yet?
Worker Stress-Related Deaths Linked to Layoffs (A Story from Buffalo, NY)
By: Michael Whitney Thursday February 25, 2010 2:16 pm
The New York Times has a heart-breaking account of the fallout of a steel plant closure in Lackawanna, an immediate suburb of my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Within weeks of the announced plant closure, 3 workers suffered heart attacks, two of which were fatal.
The first to have a heart attack was George Kull Jr., 56, a millwright who worked for three decades at the steel mills in Lackawanna, N.Y. Three weeks after learning that his plant was closing, he suddenly collapsed at home.
Less than two hours later, he was pronounced dead.
A few weeks after that, a co-worker, Bob Smith, 42, a forklift operator with four young children, started having chest pains. He learned at the doctor’s office that he was having a heart attack. Surgeons inserted three stents, saving his life.
Less than a month later, Don Turner, 55, a crane operator who had started at the mills as a teenager, was found by his wife, Darlene, slumped on a love seat, stricken by a fatal heart attack.
It is impossible to say exactly why these men, all in relatively good health, had heart attacks within weeks of one another. But interviews with friends and relatives of Mr. Kull and Mr. Turner, and with Mr. Smith, suggest that the trauma of losing their jobs might have played a role.
It’s not just in Lackawanna. Multiple studies have found that layoffs not only lead to increased health complications, they can also significantly decrease life expectancy even for relatively young workers.
A growing body of research suggests that layoffs can have profound health consequences. One 2006 study by a group of epidemiologists at Yale found that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers. Another paper, published last year by Kate W. Strully, a sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, found that a person who lost a job had an 83 percent greater chance of developing a stress-related health problem, like diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric issues.
In perhaps the most sobering finding, a study published last year found that layoffs can affect life expectancy. The paper, by Till von Wachter, a Columbia University economist, and Daniel G. Sullivan, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined death records and earnings data in Pennsylvania during the recession of the early 1980s and concluded that death rates among high-seniority male workers jumped by 50 percent to 100 percent in the year after a job loss, depending on the worker’s age. Even 20 years later, deaths were 10 percent to 15 percent higher. That meant a worker who lost his job at age 40 had his life expectancy cut by a year to a year and half.
Interestingly, while some of the workers had a history of health problems (and believe me, Buffalo isn’t the healthiest city in the world, with a food culture of beef on weck, fried chicken wings, and delicious [union-made!] Labatt beer doesn’t help), none died until the layoffs hit.
Nevertheless, it was not until after company officials announced that the Lackawanna plant was closing that any of the workers actually died from a heart attack.
Buffalo is a city wracked by the loss of manufacturing jobs; what was once an “All America City” that hosted the World’s Fair in 1901 (at which President McKinley was assassinated..sorry about that, America – but hey, we named a mall after him!) and until key shipping port for steel and grains has declined to a city with meager manufacturing and a prevalence of health care and financial jobs. The major steel company at which these workers were employed originally closed in 1985, after a long period of layoffs and declining production.
What is certain though is that Buffalo is a microcosm for the decline of manufacturing jobs, real American production, and the squeezing of America’s middle class. That workers internalize this stress shouldn’t be a surprise; it’s simply a sad testament to the new economy. Until there’s real investments made in jobs and in rebuilding the middle class, this decline of jobs, manufacturing, the middle class, and workers’ health will continue unabated.