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White-Collar and Political Crimes Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 30th, 2021

Abstract

A union of farm workers has been pushing forward for the right of the worker farms to be observed. However, neither the government nor the company under which the workers are working has responded positively. The union is claiming that every year the health of several employees of the farms is affected by the chemicals in form of pesticides that are applied and some drifted from the air in the neighboring farms. As a result, the worker’s union has sought help from a criminologist. He is going to advice the union on whether the company as well as the government are committing crime and also give advice on how the workers should obtain relief whenever such damage occurs.

Introduction

Farm worker’s union has been making allegations that each year thousands of farm’s workers fall sick due to exposure to pesticides used on the farms where they work. Exposure occurs when workers are in the fields and helicopters spray nearby fields. The industry knows about this problem and offers no remedy for it but rather continues with the practice. The government considers this problem of pesticide drift to be insignificant when compared to the total amount of pesticide applications. The collusion between the industry and the concerned government representatives has caused a lot of frustrations to the Farm worker’s union. These allegations fall under white and political crime where white-collar crime refers to a crime committed by an individual or a corporate organization which has respectability and also regarded with high status in the line of occupation. Political crime involves overt acts as well as omissions where the government has a duty to act but instead breaks its own criminal laws by prejudicing its interests or its political system. (Sutherland, 2001 pp34-36).

The farm industry is committing a crime

Although pesticides are extensively used both in farms and in homes and they provide benefits, controlling insects as well as rodents from invading farmland, they can be harmful if they are misused. Even when the exposure is little, prolonged exposure especially to regular farm workers has been found to be harmful to their health. Some chemicals have been found to be causing neurological as well as physiological damage in human beings especially to children who may have secondary contamination from their parents. Several researches have shown that such chemicals may cause short-term memory and reduced attention span as well as unexplained death. It is therefore important for the company and the government to hold educational seminars with the farm workers on the dangers caused by pesticides and the type of pesticides to be used at a particular time as well as the methods that would be used to apply the pesticides. If the workers are provided with such a program, they can be in better position to protect them by reducing the amount of exposure. (Sutherland, 2001 pp37-39).

According to the government definition, political crime involves a behavior which it perceives as a threat whether it is real or imaginary to the survival of an individual. Such threats include violent as well as non-violent oppositional crimes. In the case of the farm-workers, the criminalization done affects their human rights by curtailing their freedoms but this is not considered by the company as a crime per se. According to Marxist criminologist, political crime of the highest order arises when the state tries to make effort in producing inequality structures such as racism, sexism and ethnicity preference and advantages that goes along with social class. Failure of the industry to listen to the complains of the trade union shows how the industry protects the rights of its properties and this consequently leads to reduction of the trade union’s rights to care for the interest of the poor workers. When the interests of the workers are not listened this is likely to cause social disorder and such a society cannot efficiently function. (Tombs, 1998 pp45-48).

Farm worker illness

If an illness is suspected to have been caused by pesticides, the condition should be reported immediately and then right measures should be taken to avoid such occurrence in future. Although the industry may argue that the illness is not work-related, research has shown that most workers fall sick after they get into contact with the harmful chemicals. A study conducted in California in 1998 on 34 farm workers gave a report that the workers fell sick shortly after they were employed in the cotton fields that were being sprayed with pesticides. (Tombs, 1998 pp49-53).

In the research the farm was sprayed with the pesticide solution comprising of active ingredients as follows: 0.25% carbofuran, 0.06% macrolytic lactones and 0.05% growth regulator. Carbofuran when used on cotton farm has 48 hours as the restricted entry interval and also requires the field to be marked as well as verbal warning to be given to the workers working on the same field. However, none of these precautionary measures were observed. Two hours after the pesticide had been sprayed, the 34 farm workers who were aged between 13 and 65 years but majority 31 years started working in the same treated field so as to accomplish the remaining part of the work which they had started on the previous day. After working for around 4 hours, they were all taken for another piece of work in a neighboring field which had also been sprayed 2 days before with pesticide chemicals among them being Cyfluthrin; a synthetic pyrethroid which requires 12 hours as the restricted entry interval. Within about 30 minutes of working in the second field, all the workers fell sick to an extent of stopping the work. (Cabaret, 2002 pp 19-24).

Majority experienced nausea and severe headache accompanied by irritation in the eyes. Some complained of weakness in the muscles while others vomited and had excess salivation. Symptoms that were most common and observable were bradycardia and miosis. Among the workers, 88% were rushed to a nearby clinic while the rest preferred to receive homecare as the first aid and only received medical care after 16 days later. Those who went to clinic received decontamination through removal of the clothing they were wearing followed by a shower and treated in various hospitals around. Among the 30 workers who had been taken to hospital, 29 received treatment and were released for home on the same evening. The remaining worker received treatment overnight. On average, every worker lost at least a day not working. (Cabaret, 2002 pp 25-29).

Research analysis

The report of the above study showed that exposure to pesticides can result to serious and acute illness to farm workers as described in the above results. According to the American Association of poison Control centers, in the case study, the farm workers worked on the fields before the expiry of the label-specified restricted entry interval and were exposed to the chemicals that caused illness. The study demonstrated that, posted restricted entry interval as well as oral warnings should always be provided to the farm workers on hard labor long before they enter into the farms treated with pesticides as way of preventing illness. If the companies and the government do not adhere to these recommendations there shall be higher chances of morbidity among workers who do not have the information. From experience, many companies do not adhere to these regulations and the government does not have clear implementation strategies as it favors the farms due to the high income they bring to the states. Reliance on these measures is not adequate and therefore safer and less toxic substitutes as pesticides need to be adopted. (Murphy, 2002 pp 43-45).

The government is committing a crime

Complains of the farm workers in the fields that are usually sprayed with the pesticides without taking precautionary measures should be listened through their unions. The government should respond to such complains without fear or favor. In a situation where workers are affected by the chemicals because of such negligence, they should promptly be given medical attention that is appropriate. They should be decontaminated by first removing their clothing followed by a shower to prevent advanced illness incidences. If they are allowed to go home without decontamination, it would pose a risk to the other members of the family including children who are more vulnerable to serious side effects. The government should also ensure that the members are informed about the importance of reporting any exposure to farm pesticides to the concerned department in the industry. If no action is taken by the company, then the issue should be reported to the relevant authority in the government for appropriate measures to be taken in accordance with the law. The company should also ensure that all its workers whether permanent or casual laborers are insured incase of fatal incidences as well as minor ones so that their medical care does not incur them expenses. The government should also ensure that the right methods and apparatus for assessing the effects of the pesticides are made readily available to all clinicians to facilitate the right medication. The government should also fund more research to be done on the toxicity of the pesticides being used because the current data is not highly reliable and many issues are left unresolved. (Murphy, 2002 pp 46-49).

Seeking relief

All the farm workers are supposed to be concerned about unsafe conditions while at work even when it is a mere threat to their safety raging from the obvious dangers to those which are not easily noticed. Therefore, they should know their rights as stipulated in their compensation laws. This would enable them to protect their income as well as their health at any time they are injured due to unsafe working conditions. Every such worker in a farm where their health safety is not observed should be having an attorney of his/her choice who is conversant with worker’s compensation. The role of the attorney would be to ensure that his/her client is provided with the maximum compensation entitled under the current law. This is irrespective of how the health damage came about as long as the worker was in the line of duty. The compensation should be paid for any illness caused by the pesticides even if the fault had been caused by someone else or even the worker being affected as long as it was not intentional. (Murphy, 2002 pp 50-53).

On top of the compensation, the company is supposed to pay all the victim workers benefits for their medical costs, both physical and mental disability, loss of income as well as death. The farm companies are supposed to buy an insurance to cover its responsibilities in line with the laws on the workers compensation. The amount that the farm company pays as compensation insurance is dependent on the number of claims that a particular insurance pays. This is a motivating factor aimed at providing an incentive for farm companies to minimize accidents while maximizing safety in the working environment. (Murphy, 2002 pp 54-57).

Historical success of other employees working in unsafe conditions gaining any kind of relief

It is unfortunate for most workers in the farms using pesticides because the hazards caused by these chemicals always exists and the workers who fall as victims are not compensated at all. The compensation demands that, if a worker’s health is put under risk because of the company’s safety deficit, a provision should be made towards the worker’s loss of wage along with other benefits. It is the role of the workers attorney to inform the worker on how to relate his/or her physical problem with the current unsafe working conditions which can be attributed to the damage. This can also help in changing the unsafe working environment for the better. If the worker in affected by the chemical because the nature of the work demands that, the company should then chose between environment modification and/or the workers duties and paying him/her long term compensation benefits. Such modifications can include enhancing the safety of the employee like reducing the number of working hours, relocating the employee’s location of work or equipping the worker with the right protective devices. (Tombs, 1998 pp 54-56).

Conclusion

The demands for farm worker’s employment require the worker to be exposed to risks associated with the chemicals. If the worker’s health is affected in line of duty, he/she should transform the compensation laws for his/her relief. A well informed attorney advices the affected worker on the use of the compensation laws to obtain relief from such unsafe conditions. By having such an attorney, any worker can be assured of maximum protection that is meant to be offered by the compensation laws.

Rferences

Sutherland E. (2001): White collar crime: Yale University press pp 34-39.

Farm worker illness following exposure to carbofuran. Web.

Tombs S. (1998): Crime and the chemical industry: Dartmouth pub co pp 45-56.

Relief from Unsafe Working Conditions. Web.

Cabaret J. (2002): Toxic effects of pesticides: Elsevier pp 19-29.

Farm workers need to be better protected against pesticides. Web.

Murphy C. (2002): Environmental justice for all: Blackwell Synergy pp 43-57.

Farm Workers: Protect against pesticides. Web.

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