McWane, Inc. is a privately held company based in Birmingham, Ala., which owns plants across the country and Canada and who is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cast iron sewer and water pipe (McWane Mess). From 1995-2003, McWane plants, in the U.S., had 4,600 worker injuries (CBC News). The company was also cited for more than 400 safety violations and 450 environmental violations during that same period (Barstow, Foundry). Tyler Pipe, one of McWane’s plants, was described by one its workers. He said it was “a dim, dirty, hellishly hot place where men are regularly disfigured by amputations and burns, where turnover is so high that convicts are recruited from local prisons, where some workers urinate in their pants because their bosses refuse to let them step away from the manufacturing line for even a few moments” (Barstow and Bergman, Texas). A federal investigation began in January 2003, which was the same month The New York Times published a series of articles that described McWane as one of the nation's most persistent violators of workplace safety and environmental laws (Barstow, Foundry). CAUSES
Root organizational causes and regulatory weakness factors contributed to the McWane scandal. The structure at McWane contributed to the scandal because it was one of the root organizational causes. McWane Inc. is a privately held organization where the family and a few close individuals run it. The family is described as secluded and very private (Barstow and Bergman, Family’s). Executives and family members repeatedly decline interview requests and rarely talk to the media (Barstow and Bergman, Family’s). In 2007, of McWane’s twenty-five divisions, only two included McWane in the name (Wisniewski). Even though McWane’s divisions were places where the desperate seek work (Barstow and Bergman, Texas), society did not hold the right people accountable. Many individuals do not know McWane is connected because the plant names rarely reflect their owner. Without interviews, the fact that it is a private company, and that it keeps its name off new divisions, McWane lacks transparency to help keep it accountable. The seclusion and privacy of the family makes it seem as though they stay out of the public eye for a reason. McWane’s organizational culture was also a root cause that contributed to the scandal. One phrase was posted throughout the plants and was posted in large orange print: REDUCE MAN HOURS PER TON (Barstow and Bergman, Texas). This phrase created a culture that drove all aspects of the McWane companies. McWane was not the best place to work. In fact, there were times when turnover was 100 percent at one plant (The McWane Mess). High turnover is one measure of the culture at McWane and it shows how employees fit into that culture. The high turnover was disturbing and not normal for the industry. Acipco, a direct industry competitor, had a yearly turnover of around half a percent (Barstow and Bergman, Family’s). The organizational culture that focused on one key phrase continued into work shifts. There were two 12-hour shifts instead of the normal three shifts of eight hours. At the end of a shift, supervisors often called for four more hours of work. Therefore, employees worked 16-hour days, sometimes seven days a week (Barstow and Bergman, Texas). Leadership was also a root organizational cause. McWane never developed a system to hold supervisors accountable for safety; however, their system for holding supervisors accountable for production downtime (Barstow and Bergman, Texas). Federal rules require conveyor belts be shut off for maintenance. They also require that all belts have safety guards. The rules are important because they help prevent workers from being caught and crushed. In one instance, inspectors discovered that a belt violated both of those rules (Barstow and Bergman, Texas). This negligence contributed to one of the nine deaths that occurred at McWane divisions from 1995-2003...
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