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Five years ago, when Ron Hayes’ 19-year-old son, Patrick, was working as a grain handler at Showell Farms in De Funiak Springs, Fla., he was assigned the task of “walking down the corn”—scraping the inside walls of the grain bin. As Patrick knocked down the corn, 60 tons of it fell, suffocating him to death.

After an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into Patrick’s death, agency investigators determined that Showell Farms was guilty of six “willful” safety violations and recommended that the company pay more than $500,000 in fines. But OSHA’s area director later reduced the fine to $42,000, citing a lack of clarity about whether OSHA’s standards applied.

Ron Hayes and his family learned of the reduced fines and citations from a local news broadcast—despite repeated requests to OSHA for information. “When I saw it on TV that day,” he recalls, “I was just heartbroken.”

The ordeal inspired Hayes to reform the way OSHA handles cases such as his. He quit his job as an X-ray technician and together with his wife, Dot, founded Families in Grief Hold Together (FIGHT). The group, which helps families who have had similar run-ins with OSHA, has a nationwide network of attorneys available to do pro bono work. Over the past two years, FIGHT has helped more than 300 families in 45 states.

In 1995, OSHA admitted to mishandling Patrick’s case and revised its safety standards for workers in grain elevators and mills. But Hayes has continued to push the agency: After a request for documents relating to Patrick’s death yielded only sanitized copies, Hayes sued OSHA in federal court. A U.S. District Court judge is currently reviewing all 1,030 documents in the case to determine whether any were withheld improperly. (Eugene Seidel, the U.S. attorney representing OSHA, refused to comment on Hayes’ lawsuit.)

A favorable ruling for Hayes could result in OSHA being monitored for the next five years to ensure it complies with information requests. And if the judge rules against him? Hayes says he has approximately 100 families ready to file a class-action suit against OSHA to require the five-year monitoring period. “Pat’s gone,” he says. “But maybe I can save someone else’s kid.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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