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You're not worth much dead or alive
by Andrew Barbano
Apr 24, 2013 | 2316 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Do you think your life is worth more than $566 a year? How about $1,483? Still not enough?Don't tell that to the government of the people.

That's the value placed on NV Energy lineman Herbie Dempsey Goforth III, an electrical worker killed in a training accident near Las Vegas last September.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined NVE $43,000 for unsafe conditions and ordered the octopus to make changes by April 15.

That date could not be more bloody ironic. NVE can't write off the $43,000 against taxes, but might be able to charge the picayune sum to us ratepayers.

The total is too small for state regulators to screw with.

Back when I was tilting at power company windmills, the best Nevada Public Utilities Commission accountant told me that he didn't review anything that wouldn't make a penny a month difference on the average bill.

Mr. Dempsey just didn't amount to much.

Even humongous fines against major corporations get negotiated down by clever lawyers to 10 cents on the dollar or less. Legal fees are both tax-deductible and chargeable to ratepayers.

We live in the age of the disposable worker. Injury and death are just minor costs of doing business.

In 2009, the Las Vegas Sun won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing grotesquely unsafe construction sites on the Las Vegas Strip.

Nothing much appears to have changed. Several more have already died in Gomorrah South this year, one just last Tuesday.

At current manpower levels, it would take OSHA 55 years to inspect every Nevada job site. California would take 156 years. Florida is second-worst at 230, sandwiched between the Dakotas (243 north, 218 south), both in the midst of a fracking death spiral. Louisiana down in British Petroleum cajun country is fourth at 209.

Looks like the closer you are to energy production, the nearer you get to death on the job.

Mr. Goforth was apparently in a very dangerous business. Had he lived the U.S. average of 76 years for males, his existence would have been worth $566 per year. Since he only made it to 29, your government and mine says he was worth a whopping $1,483 when he got cashed in.

What are misleadingly labeled as workers compensation laws were imposed to indemnify employers from liability for negligence. Mr. Goforth's family might get a few thousand from an insurance company. There is usually not much left after families pay lawyers to fight "third party administrators," hired guns whose job it is to beat the injured and the dead out of the crumbs they have coming.

This Sunday is national Workers Memorial Day. Say a prayer for union brother Goforth, then adjourn to a saloon of proper jurisdiction to sing my favorite labor song, Ann Feeney's "We just come to work here, we don't come to die."

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.

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