Prokopio: " Workers must be
responsible for health and safety as well as the company."
My name is Prokopio. Ive worked in electronics for over 10 years.
Im a supervisor in the crystal-growing department. We make silicon
wafers for computers. We use arsenic, antimony, phosphorus, boron and
other chemicals. When my youngest sister, Lu, started asking me about
my health and safety, I didnt take her seriously. Lu is young,
single and idealistic. I, on the other hand, have responsibilities,
including raising three children. Ive worked really hard to give
them the best education in Catholic schools and college in the future.
SO in answer to Lus questions, I would joke around. Id come
home from work after 11pm, shed be up drawing or something, and
we would end up talking about work late into the night.
Lu was always curious about my job and sharing things she was learning
at SCCOSH. One time I helped Lu move back home from down south. That
drive usually takes forever, but it passed really quickly because she
ran through a questionnaire about health and safety. Her questions kept
me in deep thoughts as I drove the monotonous highway. I started to
realize the importance of those questions. I started remembering things
and relating many incidents, that we are not properly protected at work,
then and even now. I remembered that the shop walls once were white
and now are black.
At work last year, I had chest pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Doctors rushed me to emergency for heart attack. I was 36. They placed
tubes in my heart to release any blockages, but found nothing. Doctors
couldnt explain the cause. They asked me about my family history
but not about chemicals at work. My company said the incident was not
work-related and I paid the $6,000 hospital bill out of my own pocket.
Later on, of course, it was Lu who asked about my chemical exposures.
Then she found out that antimony causes heart attack-like symptoms and
even cancer. She urged me to face the situationnot quit, but to
try to improve the health and safety.
I came to work with different eyes, nose, and ears. I started to pay
attention to my environment and my co-workers, talking to them one on
one or as a group about wearing masks gloves, safety glasses. I urged
them to take breaks, lunch, and dinner outside the building for fresh
air, because we have inadequate ventilation for chemicals dangerous
to health. I feel for the workers I supervise. I know that live and
work in so much fear from management. On top of this, they are in so
much danger and receive very low pay. And without workers in good health,
the company will suffer.
Lu helped me understand that workers must be responsible for health
and safety as well as the company. Since my position is higher than
my workers are, I made it my responsibility to speak for them at our
staff health and safety meeting, echoing the questionnaire Lu had asked.
I felt knowledgeable as I spoke about helath and toxics. I also said
"We talk about health and safety all the time but we are not really
doing anything about it. Weve talked about the ventilation system
for years and years, yet nothting has been done. " Two weeks later,
after seven years of this companys operation, the ventilation
system was finally installed. I also urged that we thorughly educate
all employees about health and safety. AN hour and a half meeting doesnt
address the reality of what workers need to understand.
I want a good future for my children. I dont want them to work
anywhere that exposes them to chemicals and to live in fear of management.
They must feel they are part of America whether documented or undocumented.
I also dream of an alternative to working for a company all my life.
The collective of our whole extended family (including my parents and
sisters) has been to have a restaurant. After years of dreaming and
planning, we have pulled together and can say "WE DID IT!"
I wish for all workers to have health and safety, to follow their hearts,
to dream their dreams and make them into realities.