Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 1: Working for a living and living well

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 1: Working for a living and living well

a construction site with a large sign that reads: "Coming soon! Goods: union made, ecological, needed." Work should be safe, dignified, and fair, and should not harm our health nor the planet. But for millions of factory workers around the world, dangerous jobs harm their health. And after working long, hard days, they still may not earn enough to live on.

This book describes the safety and health problems workers in export factories face and some of the solutions they have tried. It shows how workers have organized — sometimes with and sometimes against their bosses — to improve conditions, do away with poverty wages, install safer equipment, and use fewer and safer chemicals. The examples in this book focus on export factories, but the problems and concerns are common to other factories and jobs as well.

The industries covered in this book — garment, shoes, and electronics — produce enough profits to improve conditions for workers. Companies that have invested in making work safer and better have found significant benefits: healthier, happier employees work better and stay in their jobs longer, and factories with worker representation produce better products, dispose of less waste, and create more equal workplaces.