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Old 05-21-2018, 08:06 AM   #61
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@Anothercat - conversation has moved on, but all I'll say is that when I read it it was clear to me Moore was talking about a trip across the channel.
I agree latepaul - that was my understanding also.
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Old 05-21-2018, 09:25 AM   #62
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Acknowledging that doesn't mean I think the the women suffered any less, and some form of aid should have been available to them (yet another aspect that hasn't changed a century later), but it should not have been necessary to establish wrong-doing as part of getting that aid. Where does this insistence that it must be someone's fault come from? Sometimes __it happens! Without the confrontational nature of blame, some of these situations would be more quickly resolved; people could cooperate rather than ducking for cover to avoid blame.
I'm kind of incredulous here. Sure, one might make a case that in the beginning, the companies were acting in a certain amount of ignorance and might claim to be blameless. But once they knew, or should have known, did they offer any compensation or even a bit of compassion to the afflicted women? Did they reexamine their practices and implement changes? The women's suffering didn't just happen--it happened because the companies exploited and victimized them.
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:39 AM   #63
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I'm kind of incredulous here. Sure, one might make a case that in the beginning, the companies were acting in a certain amount of ignorance and might claim to be blameless. But once they knew, or should have known, did they offer any compensation or even a bit of compassion to the afflicted women? Did they reexamine their practices and implement changes? The women's suffering didn't just happen--it happened because the companies exploited and victimized them.
Keep in mind that the post you quoted was drawing a line between what happened before June 1924 and what happened after. Before June 1924 I do not think Moore has made the case that the companies had any substantial reason to believe there would be long term health affects. As such, most of the early cases had nothing to do with victimisation (or no more than was normal for the times).

As to what happens after June 1924, I'm still reading that part. Part one gets through to Aug 1925 to when the strongest evidence - to date - of cause and effect seems to have been finally discovered. But again it is necessary to remember that just because Moore is only listing girls that fell ill (and as we walk into the building with one of our victims everyone she sees has a limp or a lump) does not mean they were the only girls that worked there: it was not simple case of dial-paint-work=illness, so convincing vested interests (once the evidence started to emerge) was always going to be difficult.

The problem we face is that Moore has left most of the facts and figures out of her story, making it very difficult to gain a meaningful perspective. The only choice that Moore is giving us is an emotional response, and that's not particularly helpful in understanding what actually happened.
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Old 05-21-2018, 11:58 AM   #64
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<SNIP. but it should not have been necessary to establish wrong-doing as part of getting that aid. Where does this insistence that it must be someone's fault come from? Sometimes __it happens! Without the confrontational nature of blame, some of these situations would be more quickly resolved; people could cooperate rather than ducking for cover to avoid blame.
Lawyer brain returning here...

There actually does have to be fault, legally. Without some sort of breach of duty to the women (i.e. legal fault), they were not entitled to any legal damages. Now, of course, the human brain cries out "but it was the decent thing to do!" But up until the point when they had a good idea that it was, indeed, their fault, how far should that decency have extended? Until it bankrupted them?

I think that this highlights a good point that others have made - that the book looks backwards knowing who's legal fault it was the whole time. But at what time those actors actually starting to willingly or negligently act with disregard to the safety of the workers is another matter.
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Old 05-21-2018, 12:17 PM   #65
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But again it is necessary to remember that just because Moore is only listing girls that fell ill (and as we walk into the building with one of our victims everyone she sees has a limp or a lump) does not mean they were the only girls that worked there: it was not simple case of dial-paint-work=illness, so convincing vested interests (once the evidence started to emerge) was always going to be difficult.

The problem we face is that Moore has left most of the facts and figures out of her story, making it very difficult to gain a meaningful perspective. The only choice that Moore is giving us is an emotional response, and that's not particularly helpful in understanding what actually happened.
Clusters of women in their teens and early twenties, working for the same employer, at the same job, falling victim to unexplained diseases and dying--to my mind, that's quite enough to warrant grave concern about workplace safety, even before a specific causal link could be found.
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Old 05-21-2018, 01:18 PM   #66
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Lawyer brain returning here...

There actually does have to be fault, legally. Without some sort of breach of duty to the women (i.e. legal fault), they were not entitled to any legal damages. Now, of course, the human brain cries out "but it was the decent thing to do!" But up until the point when they had a good idea that it was, indeed, their fault, how far should that decency have extended? Until it bankrupted them?

I think that this highlights a good point that others have made - that the book looks backwards knowing who's legal fault it was the whole time. But at what time those actors actually starting to willingly or negligently act with disregard to the safety of the workers is another matter.
This was really my point. By having created a system in which finding fault was necessary for these women to get any help at all, you automatically end up with a system that will go to extremes to deny fault. If there is any possible way to interpret the data in which fault can be avoided then that is what they will do. So you will get the huge delays while this happens and this only extends and exacerbates the suffering - when they describe the system as user pays they really mean it! But in a society with a health care system then people can get the help they need, and fault/blame can be sorted out later independent of addressing the urgent health requirement. (Of course, the 1920s was a bit early for this to be an option, anywhere, but it what I thought of as I read what these women had to go through.)

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Clusters of women in their teens and early twenties, working for the same employer, at the same job, falling victim to unexplained diseases and dying--to my mind, that's quite enough to warrant grave concern about workplace safety, even before a specific causal link could be found.
But this is exactly the distortion the book is making in your mind - it's pretending this was clear at the time. But this "cluster" was no such thing to start with. It was a few apparently isolated cases where the doctors believed it was probably occupational, but even the doctors couldn't say exactly what or how - which is part of why some of them spent so long looking for phosphorous; no one imagined it could be the radium. And remember: the cases only started years later; most of the women weren't even working there any more; there had been many women work there but only these few were reporting problems. This was a new situation, I can see no way that the company could have worked out what was happening before 1924.

But in 1924 that started to change, and if Moore didn't exaggerate the Drinker's report then that would seem mark the place where USRC really knew there were problems they should be addressing - even if they still couldn't know the true nature or extent of the problem (because no one knew yet).
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Old 05-21-2018, 01:33 PM   #67
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Then there is the anecdote about the founder, spotting a woman lip-pointing, telling her not to do that.

At this point, a person who actually cared about the welfare of their employees would have called a halt and investigated the practice, maybe held some training, set up some new rules.

Instead, we see episodes of making CYA rules meant to be broken, and only when there might some threat of litigation or government intervention.

However, I do agree that the author is placing blame through the eyes of hindsight: the amounts of radium used in the paints were miniscule, compared to the amounts being handled by the male scientists; it was possible that the problem was with the mesothorium and not radium itself (in fact, the evidence provided suggests that the jaw necrosis is a mesothorium-induced syndrome, whereas the sicknesses caused by the radium were mostly longer-term). And let us face it: in this modern day and age of "Fake News", "Flat Earths" and conspiracies around every corner, can we deny that there are people who will doggedly adhere to a belief even when there is an overwhelming pile of evidence proving otherwise?
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Old 05-21-2018, 04:26 PM   #68
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But this is exactly the distortion the book is making in your mind - it's pretending this was clear at the time. But this "cluster" was no such thing to start with. It was a few apparently isolated cases where the doctors believed it was probably occupational, but even the doctors couldn't say exactly what or how - which is part of why some of them spent so long looking for phosphorous; no one imagined it could be the radium. And remember: the cases only started years later; most of the women weren't even working there any more; there had been many women work there but only these few were reporting problems. This was a new situation, I can see no way that the company could have worked out what was happening before 1924.

But in 1924 that started to change, and if Moore didn't exaggerate the Drinker's report then that would seem mark the place where USRC really knew there were problems they should be addressing - even if they still couldn't know the true nature or extent of the problem (because no one knew yet).
The cluster existed; it doesn't matter that--apparently--no one could pinpoint the exact causation. There was enough to investigate and to take precautions.

In any case, at the point that the companies did know, their response was inadequate, to say the least.
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Old 05-21-2018, 09:52 PM   #69
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[...] In any case, at the point that the companies did know, their response was inadequate, to say the least.
No argument there.

The reason for offering any argument about the earlier situation is only that I wanted to understand it better, because that becomes the basis for the subsequent bad behaviour. This is history, we can't change it, but we should have been able to learn from it - although it seems quite obvious that we have not. To learn we need to understand what happened - on both sides - and I don't think this book is the right vehicle for that. (Which, for me, makes it something of a waste.)
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Old 05-21-2018, 09:54 PM   #70
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...For me, the bottom line is that at some point, and fairly early on as girls were picking pieces of their jaws out of their mouths, they knew. This is where I can't give them a pass; they continued to expect their workers to ingest radium. That by stopping pernicious practices they'd be tacitly admitting both to the truth and to culpability was the only moral position possible. For those individuals who decided that his own well-being was more important than the lives of the girls there is no excuse that holds.

...And yet, and yet. I can't help thinking that we ignore such stories at our peril. The Radium Girls in addition to being a compelling story in itself, strikes me as an effective if flawed means of getting people to think perhaps a little more critically at how the already disadvantaged are used and abused and about the power of corporations and government entities. I wish it were better, but in a way I think we have the luxury of picking it apart here as it's already preaching to the choir, so to speak. I don't advocate slanted means of persuasion, but I think the takeaway from this is reasonably true to the facts.


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...My main takeaway is that women in the workplace have been and continue to be exploited. The men in their laboratories had protective gear; the women, nothing--they didn't matter. Management lied and denied and put profit above all else. (Beyond the safety issues, I was outraged that the women were being paid for piecework, not a regular hourly wage.)

Last year I read a book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Triangle, by David Von Drehle). The bosses ignored basic safety regulations, even keeping doors locked (to prevent possible pilfering), and when fire broke out, more than a hundred women--mostly young immigrants--perished because of those locks. In court proceedings, the bosses attacked the credibility of the survivors, lied and obfuscated, avoided criminal conviction but ended up paying minimal damages in a civil suit. The specific circumstances were very different, but as I was reading about the dial painters, I kept thinking about the Triangle victims and how cheaply held were the lives of the women workers in both situations.

...
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To follow on from Catlady's reference to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, I have just been watching a documentary about the use of Benzene and N Hexane (I think that's what the second chemical was called) in the making of cell phones in China, including iPhones for Apple plus other manufacturers as well. Once again, lowly workers with little knowledge or support who then became ill some years later with leukemia in the case of Benzene, and with nerve damage requiring years of treatment in the case of N Hexane. The film was made under cover by activists in China.

Sadly, things don't change all that much - I suppose we just move them offshore from the more affluent countries to the developing ones.
Well said! Your comments are big takeaways from this book for me.

We seem to have forgotten many of the hard-learned lessons of the early industrial age. As we were discussing this book, I note two events over the past week - the announcement of the proposed rail bypass for Lac Megantic and the start today of the Grenfell Tower hearings. We learned a long time ago how to run a cargo train safely and how to construct and maintain a fire-proof high rise; there are well-established standards for these things, and we used to have organizations to enforce them. But now we seem to rely on profit-centered organizations to self-police. That didn't work well in the past. I fear that relearning that is going to be a very painful and costly process.

I applaud the choice of this book; it was a great fit for the theme.
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:09 PM   #71
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[...] And let us face it: in this modern day and age of "Fake News", "Flat Earths" and conspiracies around every corner, can we deny that there are people who will doggedly adhere to a belief even when there is an overwhelming pile of evidence proving otherwise?
And many of these have no obvious incentive to do so. But then try to imagine how it is in the confrontational situation we see in litigation. In this there are strong vested interests in seeing the fake news accepted; there are people playing legal games because they can, because that's what they're paid for, and perhaps because it would be unethical not to do the best they could for their client even if it means turning a blind eye to the suffering on the other side. With the effects of radiation being so new, it wasn't hard to find arguments. In such situations it becomes not only possible, but perhaps even obligatory, to present arguments against apparently convincing evidence (and remember that our friendly author has made it especially convincing for us); that's what they're there for.

For all that a confrontational legal system has many benefits, sometimes it really sucks!
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Old 05-22-2018, 09:05 AM   #72
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Well said! Your comments are big takeaways from this book for me.

We seem to have forgotten many of the hard-learned lessons of the early industrial age. As we were discussing this book, I note two events over the past week - the announcement of the proposed rail bypass for Lac Megantic and the start today of the Grenfell Tower hearings. We learned a long time ago how to run a cargo train safely and how to construct and maintain a fire-proof high rise; there are well-established standards for these things, and we used to have organizations to enforce them. But now we seem to rely on profit-centered organizations to self-police. That didn't work well in the past. I fear that relearning that is going to be a very painful and costly process.

I applaud the choice of this book; it was a great fit for the theme.
Another ongoing story which seems especially relevant since it's about women's health is the Irish cervical cancer scandal, where over 200 women received false negatives on their cervical cancer screens between 2010 and 2014; the lapse was identified in 2014 but only recently came to light as the women started dying from cervical cancer. To date, 18 of the women have died and more have months to live. The lab tests were outsourced to a Texas laboratory; it's another case where the interests of business and government coincided at the expense of women's lives. The tests were publicly funded; the government has said it can't confirm the cause of deaths, although the Health Service chief has now resigned.
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Old 05-22-2018, 10:30 AM   #73
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Another ongoing story which seems especially relevant since it's about women's health is the Irish cervical cancer scandal, where over 200 women received false negatives on their cervical cancer screens between 2010 and 2014; the lapse was identified in 2014 but only recently came to light as the women started dying from cervical cancer. To date, 18 of the women have died and more have months to live. The lab tests were outsourced to a Texas laboratory; it's another case where the interests of business and government coincided at the expense of women's lives. The tests were publicly funded; the government has said it can't confirm the cause of deaths, although the Health Service chief has now resigned.
There's also the simple fact of a gender gap in medical studies: e.g., cancer research and heart disease research.

Women's health often continues to be an afterthought.
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Old 05-22-2018, 10:42 AM   #74
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One contrasting example is one of the girls had a father who also worked for USRC but didn't want to kick up a fuss and risk getting fired because he needed the job. We're supposed to have sympathy for this father who is acting as he does for financial reasons, but we're not to have sympathy for the people running USRC who might have been acting deceitfully also for financial reasons.
I want to go back and address this earlier comment.

I absolutely do not see any moral equivalence between some powerless breadwinner choosing to stay silent so as not to jeopardize his job and his family, and a thriving company blithely continuing to endanger the health and well-being of its workers to maximize profits. No.
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Old 05-22-2018, 11:29 AM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
I want to go back and address this earlier comment.

I absolutely do not see any moral equivalence between some powerless breadwinner choosing to stay silent so as not to jeopardize his job and his family, and a thriving company blithely continuing to endanger the health and well-being of its workers to maximize profits. No.
I did wonder if everyone was going to let me get away with that uncontested

There is a regrettable tendency for people to see companies as things with no human side, that can stand there and part with money with no ill effects, or if there are ill effects they are seen as deserved - never quite acknowledging the fact that those effects have a real cost that someone has to pay.

In this case the companies obviously had the resources that they could have helped these women, although at some point the insurance companies get involved and things get extra messy. In situations like this there is a real risk that a company might collapse - not necessarily because of what it pays out, but because of reputation loss and related factors. The impacts of this hits management, employees - the man I was speaking of might lose his job anyway - and shareholders (who are not necessarily rich people that can afford the loss).

So the people that are acting to protect the corporation are not necessarily acting for evil or selfish purposes, many are attempting to do the best they can for the company because that best for the employees and customers and shareholders.

None of this is arguing that the company should not be held responsible for their actions, but it is useful to keep in mind that there are real people behind the corporate mask that will pay the actual costs.
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