‘Unsafe’ Caterpillar foundry claims the life of yet another White man

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Mapleton, Illinois – Yet another tragic injustice has befallen the White working class after unsafe work policies killed a man at an industrial plant known for repeated OSHA violations.

Emergency services were called to Caterpillar’s Mapleton foundry after a reported fire at 5 pm on Thursday. The victim, identified as 28-year-old Daulton Simmers, died “within a matter of seconds” after he was wholly consumed by molten steel.

Simmers, a young father, would be the third White man to die inside the unsafe Caterpillar foundry within recent years, sparking outrage across the nation.

28-year-old Daulton Simmers, of West Peoria, Illinois. Photo: GoFundMe.

According to a police statement, Simmers died trying to transfer molten metal from a foundry into a smaller pot. While the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the incident, many have already placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Caterpillar for failing to remedy many known safety issues.

In June of 2022, White 39-year-old Steven Dierkes, was killed instantly after lax safety measures led to him falling into a crucible of molten iron with a temperature of over 2,600 degrees. Disturbingly, an autopsy report determined Dierkes’s cause of death to be from what’s called “thermal annihilation.”

“He was taking a sample of iron for the met lab and apparently just tripped. He died instantly, but not all of him went in,” said a fellow Caterpillar worker to WSWS a the time of the incident. “Part of his body remained on the deck for the coroner to retrieve. It must have been ghastly for those folks that witnessed it and to wait for the coroner with half of their coworker lying on the floor.”

A subsequent OSHA investigation determined Caterpillar failed to enact “necessary measures” to prevent the incident, and proposed a slap-on-the-wrist fine of just $145,027.

A corporate informational video of the Caterpillar foundry at Mapleton, Illinois. Video: Caterpillar YouTube.

“The foundry routinely exposed employees to unprotected fall hazards as they worked within four feet of deep ceramic containers of super-heated molten iron,” said OSHA in a statement following Dierkes’ preventable death. “A worker’s life could have been spared if Caterpillar had made sure required safety protections were in place, a fact that only adds to this tragedy.”

In December of 2021, White 50-year-old Scott W. Adams plunged to his death after stepping off of a ladder at the same Caterpillar foundry, falling over 20 feet through an unforeseen hole in the floor. In that death, OSHA claimed basic fall prevention measures could have prevented the incident, and would go on to fine both Caterpillar and Adams’ contracting company.

The combined OSHA-imposed fines placed on Caterpillar would amount to nothing compared to the approximately $67.1 billion in revenue the mega-corps took home in 2023, and in the case of the Dierke fine, the company would even contest it.

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Meanwhile, Those close to Simmers remembered him for his selfless attitude despite a life of hardship and struggle common with the White working class.

“He was quiet, collected, an observer and thinker,” said a friend of Simmers to WSWS. “We grew up on the south end of Havana, which is the poor end of a poor town. He only cared about a few things which were being with his friends, settling down and having a family, and taking care of them.”

“There were a lot of people making bad choices and using drugs back then around us, even in his family, but he never participated,” they continued. “Life was just starting to look up for him for once, and now it’s over. He went to heaven for sure. Not a fair shake by a long shot. Loving, family oriented, and would help anyone if they needed it. The guy was a walking self-sacrifice basically.”

50-year-old Scott W. Adams (left) and 39-year-old Steven Dierkes (right) were both killed due to unsafe practices and a lack of safety measures at Caterpillar Mapleton Foundry. In both preventable deaths, OSHA fined Caterpillar a pittance compared to the billions it earns annually working with customers like the Israeli Defense Forces. Collage: Justice Report.

A GoFundMe has been set up to assist the family during these times. While the fundraiser has already surpassed its initial $8,000 goal, all proceeds are said to be going to Simmers’ fiance, Lynn, and his surviving children.

“Me and the kids are lost for words and heartbroken right now. He was so great to us,” said Lynn to WSWS.

In the United States, the White working class continues to face the human cost of corporate greed made manifest. According to OSHA, over 50,000 workers are said to die from chemical exposures every year, with an additional 190,000 suffering from workplace illnesses linked to cancer and organ disease.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that there were over 5,486 fatal workplace injuries in 2022, a 5.7% increase from 2021.

While the issue of blatantly unsafe work environments transcends race, it’s White bodies that are being pulled out of Caterpillar’s now infamous Mapleton foundry, referred to by some as a “slaughterhouse.”

Caterpillar, a company known for its yellow-colored construction vehicles commonly seen on American roadways, is also known for cashing in on an intimate partnership with the Jewish state of Israel. The D9R Bulldozer, one of Caterpillar’s hottest commodities, is currently used by the IDF to carry out its ongoing “war of extermination” against the Palestinian people.

IDF soldiers pictured in front of industrial bulldozers used to clear out Palestinian homes. According to reports, the IDF has used Caterpillar bulldozers to crush protesters, roll boulders onto civilians, and even outfit them into makeshift tanks for military operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Photo: Forbes, Getty Images

According to a report by Forbes, the D9R can be outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers, while other models, including Caterpillar’s “Front Runners” and “MiniCats,” have been used by Israeli Jews to tear down Palestinian homes, schools, and roads. In some instances, they have even been used to carry out “extrajudicial executions” of innocent people.

“Caterpillar makes the D9 to military specifications and sells the bulldozers to Israel as weapons under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program, a government-to-government program for selling U.S.-made defense equipment,” read a report on the D9R by Human Rights Watch. “Once exported to Israel, the bulldozers are armoured by the state-owned Israel Military Industries Ltd. Weighing roughly 64 tons, the armored D9 is more than 13 feet tall and 26 feet long with front and rear blades.”

In 2009, Israelis used a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer to crush American pro-Palestine demonstrator Rachel Corrie during a direct action to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home with the family still inside. Corrie’s murder would later spark a campaign to raise awareness of Palestinian genocide and Caterpillar’s alleged complicity.

Alarmingly, it was later revealed that the company hired “private surveillance firms” to infiltrate the activist groups and even spy on the Corrie family.

Rachel Corrie, the American activist, was crushed to death by Israeli Jews using a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer. Corrie was killed in 2003 while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah. Photo: Denny Sternstein, Associated Press

The tragic deaths of Daulton Simmers, Steven Dierkes, and Scott Adams amid a crumbling neoliberal empire represent only a smattering of workplace deaths that have occurred nationally. In March of 2023, electrical lineman Andrew Jacob Schwam was killed on the job after a “reckless” Sheriff’s deputy sped through a work zone in Blount County, Alabama.

A follow-up Justice Report investigation determined the identity of the officer involved after law enforcement hurridly concealed information. Despite video evidence and eyewitness testimony that proved the officer was to blame for Schwam’s death, Republican Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon cleared his own department of wrongdoing and labeled his detractors as “fake news.”

In April of 2023, two Black gunmen were arrested for the racially motivated drive-by shooting of White handyman, Lawrence Devan Herr in Kenner, Louisiana. During interrogation, one of the suspects had confessed to Kerr’s murder, stating that the two Black men were driving around and “just wanted to kill a White guy.”

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