REPORT ALLEGES ASARCO USED "15% RULE" TO FALSIFY HEALTH REPORTS FOR HISPANIC WORKERS
April 18, 2008
"Asarco's '15% Rule' is clear discrimination that may directly affect the health and safety of El Paso steel workers. We want to know what OSHA plans to do to correct it."
Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org
EL PASO – On Friday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m., Senator Shapleigh and former Asarco workers will hold a press conference to discuss the "15% Rule" for Hispanic Asarco workers.
"Asarco's '15% Rule' is clear discrimination that may directly affect the health and safety of El Paso steel workers," said Senator Shapleigh. "We want to know what OSHA plans to do to correct it."
In a 1990 investigation of an Asarco smelter in Hayden, Arizona, William E. Craig, an Asarco worker with the Local 886 Steelworkers Union, found that Mexican-Americans who received OSHA physicals had their results falsified to show healthier results than those actually collected. He reported:
Basically, if a Hispanic employee has a pulmonary function of 85% of capacity, when using the Company's [Asarco's] method, this employee is still rated as having 100% of pulmonary function because of the 15% margin the Company has infact [sic] self-imposed upon all Hispanics being tested at this time.
A year before, Dr. David K. Parkinson, with the SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine, had delivered a letter to the medical director for Asarco, Dr. Charles Hine, raising the identical concern. Dr. Parkinson wrote:
… I noted that the predicated values in Hispanics were being reduced by 15%. I do not know of any literature which supports this practice except in Blacks and I would be grateful if you could comment on this practice and provide any literature documenting the 15% reduction.
In response, Asarco's medical director, Dr. Hine, is quoted by Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini as saying, "Blacks had better performance (in lung-capacity tests), and we put the Hispanics closer to blacks. … Somebody had studied it—a long time ago."
With this information, Senator Shapleigh has delivered a letter to OSHA Assistant Secretary, Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., requesting copies of all OSHA reports and other documents on the "15% Rule" for Hispanic workers at Asarco. In addition, Senator Shapleigh has requested any information OSHA may have regarding the application of the "15% Rule" to Asarco smelter workers in El Paso, and OSHA's corrective and/or protective plan on the rule.
With these practices allegedly in effect so recently as twenty years ago, former workers may be suffering health consequences today which may have been avoided—but for the color of their skin.
What: 15% Rule for Hispanic Asarco Workers
Where: 800 Wyoming, Suite A
When: Friday, April 18, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.