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The Working Class & The Exploiting Class Have Nothing In Common

Sports

Shahid Khan is a very wealthy man. He owns a $112 million yacht. He is the chairman of Flightstar Aircraft Management. He is the owner of Flex-N-Gate, a $3 billion car bumper manufacturing company with a worldwide presence, which employs over 12,000 people. Khan is also a major figure in east central Illinois. As a graduate of the University of Illinois, he has donated millions of dollars towards research scholarships, the building of an outdoor tennis court and an annex for the College of Applied Health Science. Sports fans may recognize the name as he purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars football team for $760 million in December 2011.

The Working Class & The Exploiting Class Have Nothing In Common

By Neil Parthun and David Johnson
Industrial Worker
May 2012

Shahid Khan is a very wealthy man. He owns a $112 million yacht. He is the chairman of Flightstar Aircraft Management. He is the owner of Flex-N-Gate, a $3 billion car bumper manufacturing company with a worldwide presence, which employs over 12,000 people. Khan is also a major figure in east central Illinois. As a graduate of the University of Illinois, he has donated millions of dollars towards research scholarships, the building of an outdoor tennis court and an annex for the College of Applied Health Science. Sports fans may recognize the name as he purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars football team for $760 million in December 2011.

Despite his prominent status, especially in the community, Flex-N-Gate workers have come forward to blow the whistle on the conditions in Flex-N-Gate plants. As Khan finalized the purchase of the Jaguars, workers filed complaints against Flex-N-Gate, alleging over 30 violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. The employees allege that:

- The company has not provided sufficient training and communication on what chemicals workers are exposed to and the potential adverse health effects.

- The company does not give workers access to proper personal protection.

- The company’s practices and procedures subject workers to unsafe conditions.

Most of the workers’ complaints are centered on exposure to a known carcinogen, hexavalent chromium. Helavalent chromium was made infamous in the film “Erin Brockovich.” The chemical can also cause allergic reactions and breathing problems. These unsafe conditions also include a number of fires that have occurred at the Urbana, Ill. plant from 2004 to 2011.

For dealing with these unsafe conditions, the workers are paid at near-poverty levels. To prevent organizing or planned protest, the bosses have been pitting the workers against each other. The bosses have attempted to use privileges and work conditions to try to break unity between the white, African-American, Congolese and Latino workers.

Workers who have made their complaints public have faced retaliation inside the plant, such as having their work hours changed. They also face retaliation outside the plant. On the weekend of Feb. 11, many of the Congolese Flex-N-Gate workers and their families received notices from their landlords that they would not renew the leases. The letter stated the workers had been “less than satisfactory,” despite having never being late with rent and never receiving warnings about noise problems or proper maintenance of their apartment. After quick mobilization by local community activists, the company’s chief operating officer spent Valentine’s Day evening hand delivering letters to the families giving them the opportunity to renew their leases.

Local activists held a rally in support of the Flex-N-Gate workers at the Guardian West plant in Urbana, Ill. Supporters discussed Khan’s opulence as compared to the pitiful wages and working conditions suffered by his employees. Activists also noted that Khan avoided paying approximately $85 million in taxes by using tax havens. Khan can certainly afford to pay his fair share in taxes, provide safety equipment, safe working conditions and a living wage to his employees, but he chooses not to.

While it appears that Khan has a battle on his hands with workers alleging OSHA violations at the Flex-N-Gate work facilities, he is also facing some problems as the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Soon after buying the team, Khan defined what he thought a fan was during the introduction of the team’s new head coach. “For me, a fan is somebody who is a season ticket holder for the Jaguars,” Khan said. “So, that is a key definition we need to get out.”

Meanwhile, Jacksonville residents spent hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on refurbishing the stadium, the city did not receive 25 percent of the money guaranteed for the naming rights of the stadium, and fans were expected to pay an increased average ticket price of $92.74 (per game) in 2011-2012, as well as for parking and overpriced food and merchandise. Simply put, many fans have been priced out of the stadium that their tax money helped to build.

After the public rightfully attacked these ridiculous comments, Khan later walked the statement back and noted, “All it takes to be a Jaguars fan is to love the Jaguars.”

Working people have faced an assault from Khan and the Jaguars. Khan chose not to invest in the proper and necessary safety equipment for his workers while he chose to spend $760 million to purchase the Jacksonville National Football League (NFL) franchise. In the days after he purchased the team, he even cut the wages of some of his Flex-N-Gate employees.

Meanwhile, Florida’s working families have seen cuts to social services and education as millions are spent funding stadiums—socializing the cost but privatizing the profit for the NFL team. The owner of their favorite team then tells them that unless they spend thousands of dollars on tickets, they are not true fans. Such comments are an affront to sports fans and working people.

For charging such high prices to attend games that many working sports fans are priced out of and for receiving so much corporate welfare from Florida taxpayers, Khan would be best served to work for the interests of regular working people—be they Flex-N-Gate employees or Jaguars fans.

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The Working Class & The Exploiting Class Have Nothing In Common | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
The Working Class & The Exploiting Class Have Nothing In Common
Authored by: toledoliberation on Tuesday, May 29 2012 @ 11:20 AM CDT

I completley agree that corporations and indivduals should be held accountable to their actions. I think rather than headlines that further class divides we should try to bridge those gaps so that accountablity and progress can take place.