American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

Barefoot and Pregnant in the Foundry

Posted by Matt Cipriano | 1 Comment

Okay, well maybe not pregnant… Apparently the NY Times is all up in arms over the “discovery” of the conditions under which NYC manhole covers are made in India. A photo on the cover of the times (and right there to the right) shows bare foot, bare-chested, Indian men working in iron foundries producing New York’s manhole covers.

The article questions the safety conditions under which these guys are working. No protective clothes, no eye wear, and yes, no shoes even. Con Edison officials, the folks purchasing the manhole covers said they were surprised by the lack of safety precautions and said they take them very seriously. The foundry, which forges the manhole covers out of molten iron, claims to have had no accidents, though other officials say that a lot of the accidents go unreported.

Now, the utility said, it is rewriting international contracts to include safety requirements. Contracts will now require overseas manufacturers to “take appropriate actions to provide a safe and healthy workplace,” and to follow local and federal guidelines in India.

Honestly, I don’t get it. I know it is a dangerous environment to be working in and all that jazz, but I highly doubt these men are required to work shirt- and shoe-less. Maybe they are working like that due to the intense heat, that is described as oven like… Maybe it is because some clothes have a greater chance of catching a spark and igniting (as described in the article). I understand that this is a dangerous industry to work in, but if the workers aren’t complaining and are working dressed like this, then maybe there isn’t that big a problem here. I think it says a lot that “the men making New York City’s manhole covers seemed proud of their work and pleased to be photographed doing it.”

The article touches on a number of issues related to the production of these manhole covers. The safety issue, which is the biggest highlighted in the article, is, to me at least, one of the lesser issues. The law which requires “the city buy the lowest-priced products available that fit its specifications” is a bit distressing, shouldn’t some consideration be given to quality, maybe safety standards and possibly even products made locally (about 25% of the cities manhole covers come from this foundry in India).

Or how about the fact that workers in these Indian foundries are paid significantly less then their US counterparts (of course that is the whole idea behind outsourcing, isn’t it?). Or how about that the city is buying the manhole covers through a middleman in Flushing, wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy directly from the source?

Anyway it is an interesting, if slightly mis-focused, article and has some great pictures worth checking out.


One Response to “Barefoot and Pregnant in the Foundry”

  1. Barefoot and Pregnant in the Foundry American Madness | Menopause Relief
    June 8th, 2009 @

    [...] Barefoot and Pregnant in the Foundry American Madness Posted by root 13 minutes ago ( Nov 29 2007 okay well maybe not pregnant apparently the ny times is all up in arms or how about that the city is buying the manhole covers through a middleman in flushing leave a comment name required email required website 2009 american madness is powere Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Barefoot and Pregnant in the Foundry American Madness [...]

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