Workers are asking Massachusetts to gamble for jobs. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
The nation’s largest student association representing 4.5 million students is working with the AFL-CIO to support the DREAM Act immigration reform legislation. United States Student Association President Gregory Cendana says allowing undocumented immigrant high school graduates to earn permanent residency status through higher education and or military service as the DREAM Act does is good for the nation. He says most of these students have never known another country.
Specter Gets Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Endorsement, But His Opponent Has The Stronger National AFL-CIO Voting Record – 04/01/10
By Doug Cunningham
Today, 1,000 nurses and 500 health care workers at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia set up a picket line that eventually grew to more than 1,200 for a noon-time rally.
Maureen May, president of the nurses union, told the crowd:
We will be on strike until Temple is ready to begin a relationship of cooperation and respect. This strike is about our fundamental rights as workers and healthcare professionals, which the hospital seeks to undermine with their ‘best and final’ offer. Their offer has not changed for months, despite the union’s commitment to good faith bargaining.
Under Temple’s last offer, individual nurses and healthcare professionals could be disciplined or fired if the hospital believes he or she made a publicly disparaging comment about the hospital. Management also is demanding a huge increase in health care costs and has refused to discuss nurses’ concerns over staffing levels.
Jackie Silver, president of the healthcare professional and technical union, told the rally:
We make Temple look good every day when we are delivering patient care. We know the patients and take care of them and their families. Temple’s bargaining posture and proposals would harm, not improve, patient care, and we cannot accept that. This is the reason we are on strike-our patients, our professions, and our fundamental right to stand up to keep Temple a safe, quality hospital.
A little more than a year after taking office, the Obama administration and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have taken significant steps to repair the damage to workplace safety and health left behind after eight years of the Bush administration.
With Workers Memorial Day (April 28) approaching, this is a good time to look at the progress made since the “the new sheriff” hit town. (Click here for fact sheets, fliers, posters, stickers and other Workers Memorial Day materials.)
As Esther Kaplan writes in the Nation:
During the Bush years, the Department of Labor became a cautionary tale about what happens when foxes are asked to guard the henhouse.
For eight years under the Bush Administration, corporate officials and management representatives headed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Bush’s first MSHA head, David Lauriski, was chief safety officer at Emery Mining’s Wilberg, Utah, mine in 1984 when an explosion killed 27 coal miners. The blast, says Kaplan, “was later attributed to numerous violations at the mine.”
The owners, it turned out, had been trying for a one-day production record…Seventeen years after the disaster, Lauriski became George W. Bush’s first mine safety chief, a perch from which he halted a dozen new safety regulations initiated under [the] Clinton [administration], advocating instead a more “collaborative” approach with industry.
Today, MSHA is headed up by Joe Main who began work in the mines when he was 19, became a local union safety committeeman, a safety inspector in the Mine Workers (UMWA) Safety and Health Department and eventually is director.
At OSHA, Bush’s last administrator, Edwin Foulke, was former partner at the notorious anti-union law firm Jackson Lewis. He so strongly opposed workplace safety and health laws The New York Times labeled him “an antiregulatory ideologue.”
Contrast Foulke with David Michaels, Obama’s choice as OSHA administrator. Michaels is an occupational safety and health expert, co-founder of the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and epidemiologist at George Washington University.
Under Bush, OSHA and MSHA emphasized voluntary compliance programs over strong enforcement of workplace safety and health regulations. When they issued penalties, the employers often negotiated down the fines, which were negligible to begin with.
Now, both OSHA and MSHA have stepped up enforcement, assessing large penalties against employers with serious, repeated and willful violations. In October, OSHA levied the largest fine in its history-$87 million against BP Products for failing to correct the safety problems that caused a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured another 170 people at a Texas City oil refinery.
OSHA also is strengthening its enforcement program to focus more on repeated violators and to develop corporate-wide approaches to enforcement. It’s launched a national investigation in the under reporting of injuries and employer practices that discourage workers from reporting job injuries.
During the eight-year run of the Bush administration, not only did OSHA and MSHA put the brakes on new safety and health rules laws in the pipeline when they took office, neither agency issued any new standard unless forced by the courts or Congress. OSHA is now moving forward with rules on silica, cranes and derricks, hazard communication, combustible dust and other workplace hazards.
The Bush administration presided over the repeal of the nation’s first ergonomics standard and made it so that OSHA’s hands tied to set a new ergonomics rule. But the agency now has proposed changes in the injury recordkeeping rule to reinstate a requirement, repealed by the Bush administration, for employers to identify musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on the workplace injury log.
At MSHA, new rules to limit exposure to coal dust and silica and to address increases in lung disease among miners are top priorities. Main also told Kaplan that MSHA will identify the top risk factors that lead to mining deaths and injuries and help educate mining companies on how to eliminate them, but not as a substitute for enforcement.
We’ll provide assistance to the mine operators who do need it, .but never as a replacement to the enforcement tools. There was some confusion about that in recent years. I’m not confused about that.
Both safety agencies suffered drastic cuts in budget and personnel (especially in inspection and personnel) under the Bush administration. The Obama administration has restored those cuts and its FY 2011 budget includes some modest increases.
Employers’ rights appeared paramount in the Bush OSHA and MSHA. Today both agencies have established programs focusing on workers’ rights, including whistleblower and anti-discrimination protections and better worker access to fatality and injury.
The Obama administration also is backing congressional efforts to improve workplace safety and health laws, including the Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 2067 and S. 1580), which toughens penalties, expands OSHA coverage to public-sector workers, strengthens anti-discrimination protections and expands workers’ rights.
It’s likely the same corporate and Republican forces that blocked improvements in workplace safety and health will fight this legislation and each and every new safety initiative.
So this Workers Memorial Day, along with honoring workers killed and injured on the job and demanding good, safe jobs with decent wages, health and retirement security and a voice on the job, workers will continue the fight for strong new safety and health protections.
Wall Street got $700 billion in our taxpayer bailout dollars after fueling an economic disaster that has left America’s workers without jobs and communities without hope, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka writes today at the Huffington Post.
Now the financial industry is mounting a public relations campaign instead of supporting new rules for Wall Street to prevent a repeat of this disaster.
Trumka spells out a three-point plan for the banks that used and abused taxpayer bailout money.
First, Big Banks must resume lending to help credit-starved communities create jobs.
Next, they must embrace a small tax to curb destabilizing short-term speculation and pay for the jobs they destroyed.
Finally, Congress also must reform the rules for Wall Street, including creation of an independent consumer agency that will crack down on abuses by big banks and their CEOs and credit card companies to protect working families and small businesses.
Read the entire post here.
Members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and the Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice, a coalition of social justice groups, will walk through Winston-Salem, N.C., today to demand fair treatment for tobacco farm workers who suffer low wages and poor working conditions.
For nearly three years, FLOC has asked Susan Ivey, CEO of Reynolds American, the parent of R.J. Reynolds, the nation’s second-largest tobacco company, to meet and work toward ending the abuses that occur in the tobacco fields. To date, Reynolds has refused to even speak with members of FLOC.
Although Reynolds does not directly employ the farm workers on its contract farms, Reynolds sets the terms with its contract growers and profits from the farm workers’ labor.
The nation’s tobacco farm workers live in poverty, and many suffer from nicotine poisoning and exposure to deadly pesticides and harsh conditions in the fields, according to FLOC. In recent years nine field workers have died in North Carolina tobacco fields, most of them due to heat stroke, the union says.
Says FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez:
The fact that farm workers still live in extreme poverty and are vulnerable to many work-related illnesses is not only a tragedy but a moral disgrace hidden from the eyes of most Americans. FLOC will campaign until Reynolds Tobacco commits to joining us in addressing this national shame.
In 2008, Velásquez spent a week working as a field laborer at a North Carolina farm to see firsthand the conditions of tobacco workers. Read his column on his experience here. For more information on the Reynolds campaign, click here.
For more than 20 years, the Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice, an organization of some 30-plus faith groups and allies, have sponsored a 100-mile walk through cities in North Carolina in support of social justice issues.