The story below is a sadly predictable example of a state agency failing to protect workers from the greedy corner-cutting of larcenous employers. However, you'd think that a local public figure who proudly proclaims his solidarity with the workingman wouldn't have hesitated to alert those workers about the danger their employers were exposing them to. You'd think, but you'd be wrong about First Ward City Commissioner James Jendrasiak who is more comfortable in a three-piece suit than wearing a blue collar these days.
As told elsewhere on this site, contractors Pioneer Inc. and Dykema Excavators Inc. had their workers excavate 26,000 tons of contaminated soil from the Boardwalk project site without any protective gear or controls to prevent their exposure to the hazardous substances that laced that dirt. To maintain the pretense that the soil was clean and needed no special handling, Pioneer and Dykema Excavators concealed the truth from their employees who exposed themselves to the waste.
At the time the workers were digging up this poison in the fall of 2000, I tried to get MIOSHA to intervene. Incredibly, MIOSHA refused to take my complaint because I was neither a worker on the site nor a union member. However, I knew that Jendrasiak was a union member, so he could make the complaint. I gave him all the information he needed to take up the cause of the construction workers at the Boardwalk project site. But Jendrasiak refused to get involved. So much for sticking up for the working stiff when it counts. You West Siders might want to keep this incident in mind when J.J. comes trolling for your votes.
Of course, Jendrasiak's opponent in the First Ward city commission race, Dave Shaffer, could raise this issue. It's a legitimate one. After all, the Boardwalk project is in the First Ward and it's good example of how little Jendrasiak will stick his neck out for his constituents. But remember, Shaffer is backed by the Mavericks, a leading member of which is Chris Beckering. It was Beckering's father as then-owner of Pioneer Inc. who sent his men under that old furniture factory that became the Boardwalk to dig out the toxic soil there without ever telling them of the danger they faced. If Shaffer is silent on this, I suppose that'll tell West Side voters something about how beholden he is to his financial backers.