In the early evening of Friday, March 24, an explosion killed 7 workers and hospitalized several others at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania. The explosion took place at a production facility for the R.M. Palmer Company, which produces seasonal chocolates such as chocolate Easter bunnies. The explosion also impacted buildings and injured residents in the neighboring community.
The New York Times reports that before the explosion, workers had notified plant management that they had smelled a natural gas leak and were concerned about it. Despite this, the company providing natural gas to the plant claimed they were never called about a gas leak at the facility. Reports from local news sources suggest that other workers had complained about natural gas leaks in the factory in the months leading up to the explosion and quit their jobs at the plant because the issue was not addressed.
The details of the explosion are still being investigated, but the information coming out suggests concerns raised by workers about gas leaks had not been taken seriously by management in order to keep production going. The fact that Easter is coming up may have also had something to do with the bosses’ desire to keep production going, to meet quotas for the holiday.
The AFL-CIO, the national federation of most labor unions in the United States, estimated that in 2020, an average of 340 workers died each day on the job due to hazardous working conditions. This does not even account for the COVID-19 pandemic, where it is estimated that tens of thousands of healthcare workers around the world have died due to workplace exposures to COVID-19.
This explosion in Pennsylvania is just another example of how workers’ lives are treated as disposable under the bosses’ system.