by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
What if Koch Industries offered burial insurance as a benefit for temporary employees doing clean up on toxic spills, a common need in the petroleum industry? You might think, well at least they are being given something!
Wait. Let's consider for a moment what happened to the low level employees who cleaned up the Valdez Spill which took place on Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989. According to Susan Shaw, a toxicologist, these cleanup workers have all died. This gave them a life span of 52 years when the average life expectancy in America is 78.
Quite a difference there. That is an average loss of 26 years of life, which is deceptive because people struggle with a range of conditions after being exposed to toxic waste which drains them, and their families as they struggle and die.
How much is a year of your life worth? Shaw estimates 150,000 clean up workers were involved in the BP gulf spill. Due to the huge amounts of Corexit dispersant used together with the close contact they may fare worse than the Valdez workers.
Now, let's look again at the practice of insuring low level employees, a practice generally referred to as taking out 'peon insurance.'
Insuring the lives of low level employees by corporations is carried out routinely today. Premiums are paid on the policy. The employee is oblivious. He or she can be fired or quit but corporation keeps paying until the employee dies. Then, a check is cut by the insurance company and sent to the corporation which made the payments.
Many have been outraged that the family of the dead employee did not get a portion of the money paid out. But the real issue is that using insurance policies allows corporation to avoid paying taxes. This is a corporate tax dodge. The corporation borrows the money to pay the premiums. The interest on such money used to pay premiums is tax-deductible. The eventual payout is tax-exempt.
Employees, in most industries, are not harmed or benefited by the action of the corporation. Not true for cleanup workers.
Would the Kochs do this?
In their case the cleanup worker loses 26 years, or more, of life and Koch Industries gets the insurance payout and the tax-exemption on their premiums. If they are feeling generous the Kochs provide a burial.
The question should be are they doing this yet?