Worker Safety Ad­vo­cate Ge­orge Tay­lor

The Washington Post Sunday - - Obituaries - By Pa­tri­cia Sul­li­van

Ge­orge H. R. Tay­lor, 95, an AFL- CIO la­bor leader who helped draft the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Act in 1970, died of pneu­mo­nia March 23 at Shady Grove Ad­ven­tist Hospi­tal in Rockville. He was a long­time res­i­dent of Bethesda.

A staunch de­fender of work­ers’ rights, Mr. Tay­lor ded­i­cated his life to mak­ing sure em­ploy­ees had safe work­places. He worked for the AFL- CIO from 1959 un­til his re­tire­ment in 1983, the last eight years as its di­rec­tor of oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health.

OSHA “ never would have passed with­out him,” Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy ( D- Mass.) said in a state­ment, but Mr. Tay­lor felt that the leg­is­la­tion never lived up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of work­ers.

“ We thought the law, if ag­gres­sively ad­min­is­tered, would do a great deal,” he said in 1976. “ But it just hasn’t lived up to its prom­ise.”

That never stopped Mr. Tay­lor from fight­ing for im­prove­ments in ei­ther the law or fed­eral poli­cies. A mem­ber of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Work­ers of Amer­ica, he at­tacked ef­forts in the 1980s to quan­tify the costs of safety mea­sures.

“ It is an arid ex­er­cise in con­trol­ling lives,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Post. “ You don’t make pol­icy con­cern­ing hu­man lives based on dol­lar costs. That lets sys­tems economists, any that have the gall, be­come the de­ci­sion mak­ers.

“ If there is a rea­son­able be­lief that a large num­ber of peo­ple are go­ing to be put at risk, you try to pre­vent it. You don’t wait un­til you can count the last pair of lungs on the dis­sect­ing ta­ble.”

Mr. Tay­lor “ helped build the foun­da­tion for the work­place and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions in place to­day,” AFL- CIO Pres­i­dent John J. Sweeney said in a state­ment. “ He was an un­re­con­structed and un­re­pen­tant ‘ New Dealer’ who spent his life’s work fight­ing for jus­tice and fair­ness and de­mand­ing that gov­ern­ment serve the in­ter­est of or­di­nary cit­i­zens. Mil­lions of work­ers have been pro­tected from in­jury and ill­ness be­cause of his tire­less work.”

Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1911, he told his fam­ily that as a child he sat in Buf­falo Bill Cody’s lap. Mr. Tay­lor, a grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia, served in the Army Air Forces dur­ing World War II. Af­ter the war, he was ac­tive in the bat­tle over the pro­posed con­struc­tion of a dam in the Hells Canyon of Idaho’s Snake River. He was one of the founders of the Na­tional Hell’s Canyon As­so­ci­a­tion, which Time mag­a­zine said “ blos­somed and bris­tled like a desert cac­tus” in op­po­si­tion to the con­struc­tion of a pri­vately owned dam.

By 1954, Mr. Tay­lor was leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant to Sen. Wayne Morse ( D- Ore.) and also worked for the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee as di­rec­tor of nat­u­ral re­sources. From 1955 to 1959, he was ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Elec­tric Con­sumers In­for­ma­tion Com­mit­tee. He then went to work for or­ga­nized la­bor.

Mr. Tay­lor pushed for pro­tec­tions for work­ers from ion­iz­ing ra­di­a­tion in the early 1960s and for preser­va­tion of fam­ily farms on fed­eral recla­ma­tion projects. He bat­tled overly noisy fac­tory floors. He rep­re­sented the AFL- CIO at the first na­tional con­fer­ences on wa­ter and air pol­lu­tion. He rep­re­sented or­ga­nized la­bor on Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son’s Na­tional Clean Air Com­mis­sion and a spe­cial com­mit­tee of the U. S. Pub­lic Health Com­mis­sion, call­ing at­ten­tion to the dan­gers to work­ers from oc­cu­pa­tional ex­po­sure to toxic sub­stances.

A mem­ber of the na­tional and fed­eral ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees on oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health, Mr. Tay­lor served as chair­man of the la­bor di­vi­sion of the La­bor De­part­ment’s Di­vi­sion of Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Re­search. He also chaired the old Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion’s la­bor- man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

The Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence of Gov­ern­men­tal In­dus­trial Hy­gien­ists gave him its William Steiger Me­mo­rial Award in 1982, and the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety hon­ored him with its Alice Hamil­ton Award in the early 1980s.

A vo­ra­cious reader, he sought out the Ko­ran on Sept. 12, 2001, and read through it in the fol­low­ing days, be­cause “ he wanted to have a greater un­der­stand­ing of what we were fac­ing and how the Ko­ran might be mis­in­ter­preted by those seek­ing to un­der­mine peace,” said his daugh­ter, Caro­line V. Tay­lor, with whom he lived for the past seven years in Seneca. His wife, Valo­rie, died in 1998.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter, sur­vivors in­clude a son, John G. Tay­lor of Glenns Ferry, Idaho; and two grand­chil­dren.


AFL-CIO of­fi­cial Ge­orge Tay­lor called at­ten­tion to such work­place dan­gers as ex­po­sure to ion­iz­ing ra­di­a­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.