Clear It with Sidney | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It with Sidney

Bloomberg Businessweek wins April Sidney for Exposing Alabama's Deadly Non-Union Auto Parts Industry

Photo credit: 

Reco Allen, with his son, in Tanner, Ala. Allen lost his right hand and forearm as the result of an accident he sustained in 2013 while working on the assembly line at a Matsu auto parts plant in Alabama. (Courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek)

Peter Waldman wins April Sidney for “Inside Alabama’s Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs,” published in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Alabama is home to 160 auto parts factories, which supply the car factories that flocked to the right-to-work state in the late nineties. Workers in this low-wage, nonunion corner of the auto parts industry endure long shifts to fill punishing production quotas in order to compete with similar firms in Bangladesh and Mexico.


When a machine malfunctioned on the Ajin USA assembly line, 20-year-old Regina Elsea feared her team would miss their quota if she waited for a technician to fix it. So she grabbed a screwdriver and attempted to clear the problem herself. The broken machine surged forward, impaling Elsea on a pair of welding tips. The technician her coworkers summoned to fix it had no idea what to do and ran away. She died the next day. Ajin sent a single artificial flower to her funeral.


OSHA fined Ajin $2.5 million in connection with Elsea’s death. A month earlier, the company had been fined for letting 8 workers get their hands crushed in welding machines.


The risk of losing a limb or a digit in an Alabama parts factory is double the risk for the industry at large. A worker in Alabama is 65% more likely to lose a digit than a worker in the same industry in Michigan.


“Workers like Elsea are losing life and limb because of unrelenting time pressure and lack of basic safety training.” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “Waldman used the Freedom of Information Act to expose a hidden epidemic of grisly death and catastrophic injury in this industry.”


Peter Waldman has been an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News since 2009. He was previously a Senior Writer for Conde Nast Portfolio and before that an editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal for 22 years, where he was posted in the Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.


Sidney's Picks: OSHA's Silence, Dirty Hands, and Kushner's Ruse

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Frankieleon, Creative Commons.

Sidney’s Picks: The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney's Picks: The Gig Economy, Deadly Auto Jobs, and the Health Care Fiasco

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Lyft trike, Lynn Friedman, Creative Commons.

Sidney’s Picks: The Best of the Week’s News

2017 Canadian Hillman Prize Winners Announced

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Gilad Rom, Creative Commons.


The 2017 Canadian Hillman Prize goes to Min Sook Lee for her groundbreaking TVO documentary, Migrant Dreams, which profiles a group of migrant agricultural workers who were lured to Canada by promises of high-paying greenhouse jobs only to find exploitation, surveillance, and intimidation via the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

An honorable mention goes to Jorge Barrera for Quest for Innocence on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network for reversing the wrongful second-degree murder conviction of Connie Oakes, a Cree woman sentenced to a lengthy prison term for a murder she did not commit.

Another honorable mention goes to Sara Mojtehedzadeh and her team at the Toronto Star for A Workers’ Compensation System in Crisis, a hard-hitting series on the quiet dismantling of Ontario’s workers’ compensation system.

Learn more about this year’s Canadian Hillman honorees.

Sidney's Picks: Muslim Bans, the Oxford Comma, and Homeless College Kids

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JulieJordanScott, Creative Commons.

Sidney’s Picks: The Best of the Week’s News

  • Did Trump’s big mouth doom his new Muslim Ban?
  • $10 million in overtime hinges on an Oxford comma.
  • 14% of community college students at 70 schools are homeless, a new report finds.
  • The new Take Care Blog tracks the legal intricacies of the Trump administration. 

Sidney's Picks: GOP Cripples the Government; KKK Wizard Refutes White Supremacy

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Laurie Shaull, Creative Commons.

Sidney’s Picks: The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney's Picks: Workers' Rights, DOL, and JCC Threats

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Hillman board member Danny Glover, by qbac07, Creative Commons.

Sidney's Picks: White House Interfered in FBI Investigation

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FBI Headquarters, nate q, Creative Commons.

Sidney's Picks: The Mar-A-Lago Blues, the ACA, and Sinking Mexico City

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WallyG, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney's Picks: Sessions, Voting, and the Dominican Republic

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Traveller-Reini, Dominican Republic, Creative Commons. 

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Evelyn Turner tried to help black people vote, and Jeff Sessions tried to jail her
  • The Trump Organization looks to the Dominican Republic, despite a promise to forgo foreign deals
  • Kellyanne Conway flouted federal ethics law with Ivanka “commercial” 
  • Unplugged: Critical Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offline until further notice