Archive for August, 2011

Solis announcement on child farm labor welcome, but overdue
Today, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced that the Department of Labor (DOL) is updating regulations that protect children from dangerous agricultural jobs. Her announcement is long overdue, as these rules have not been updated in 40 years.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis rips Rick Perry’s Texas
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Wednesday slammed labor policy in Texas – which has been overseen by Gov. Rick Perry for the past decade – by saying “there is a lot of need” to better the plight of workers in the state. Solis said she recently attended a summit in the Lone Star state to talk about wages, protection in the workplace, and the rights that workers have there.

White House order on regulations imperils mine workers
The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) formal announcement in today’s Federal Register that it would pursue a much slower course for a key mine safety rule puts mine workers in harm’s way.

Abuse of power: Congressman Issa’s attacks on the National Labor Relations Board
In a truly unprecedented attack on federal law enforcement, agents at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), California Rep. Darrell Issa and his Republican allies in the House of Representatives are doing the bidding of corporate elites in an effort to suppress the collective bargaining rights of private-sector workers.

Austin-based non-profit educates hard-to-reach construction workers
Workers Defense Project, an Austin-based non-profit organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment and safe working conditions, has developed a new worker health and safety program with assistance from a 2010 Occupational Safety and Health Administration Susan Harwood grant. Austin’s construction workers face high rates of dangerous working conditions, death on the job (every 2.5 days a construction worker dies in Texas), and denial of legal protections.

‘Litany of failures’ cited in deadly San Bruno pipeline blast
A utility’s “litany of failures” combined with weak government oversight probably caused a gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno last year, federal accident investigators said Tuesday.

OSHA wants to fine Parks, Neb. feedlot $185,600 for violations found after grain bin death
Federal labor officials want to impose nearly $186,000 in fines on a feedlot near Parks, Neb., for violations found after the March death of a worker in a grain bin. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday DL Cattle Trading violated several safety rules and failed to report the March 1 death until two weeks later.

Samson halts work pending investigation into oil field deaths
Samson Resources Co. has halted construction work on some of its sites in Wyoming pending an investigation into what caused the explosion that killed three contract workers at a company site Monday morning.

MetroAccess bus driver on long hours: ‘This is absolute slavery’ (video)
MetroAccess bus drivers are worried about their long hours, we’ve learned in the last week. Today a disturbing and sad video from a MetroAccess bus driver illustrates the very concerns I heard drivers voicing at the protest. The video features a driver speaking in a distorted voice looking over a schedule board. What we see is the difficulty a driver faces in arranging any break, as hours after hours go by without any breaks.

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Another Labor Day and little reason for worker celebration
As we near another Labor Day, I’d like you to look at two scenarios and decide which one is closer to historic reality. Scenario #1: Leaders of most U.S. businesses and industries got together many years ago to consider the plight of those who worked for them. …Scenario #2: Leaders of most U.S. businesses and industries vigorously fought every one of these worker benefits, and more, which were adopted only after years of street battles, legislative struggle and court challenges.

Workplace stress may lead to more doctor visits
Being stressed at work can take a physical toll. A study finds that being in high-strain occupations may be linked with making more trips to see the doctor compared with those in less-stressed jobs.

‘Automation addiction’ could leave pilots ill-prepared for a crisis
Advanced airline technology is letting pilots rely more and more on computers in the cockpit. But does that also mean their hands-on skills will slip away, leaving them less capable of dealing with a crisis? An investigation by The Associated Press found that while fatal airline accidents have decreased dramatically in the U.S. during the last decade, reduced opportunities for flying manually could be leaving some pilots less prepared to make critical split-second decisions when they need to take the controls.

Bloomberg did not discriminate against women by treating new mothers the same as other leave-takers
The judge who ruled that Bloomberg LP did not illegally discriminate against women for taking pregnancy leave raised an important policy question in her written opinion. Judge Preska did not drop “an anvil…on the work-life balance scale,” despite commentators’ efforts to portray her decision as a calculated blow against work-life balance; in deciding in Bloomberg’s favor, all she did was follow the existing law. In her commentary, however, she questioned the wisdom of the law itself, and noted that one alternative might be for employers to “treat pregnant women and mothers better or more leniently than others.” Judge Preska did not say whether she thinks that would be a good idea. It is a dreadful idea.

Another OSHA probe at Tampa Pepsi plant after second incident
In the wake of two incidents at a Pepsi-Cola plant since March– one that killed an independent contractor and the other that seriously injured an employee’s leg – two federal investigations are ongoing.

L.A. area porn filming halted after performer tests positive for HIV
An adult film performer has tested HIV-positive, prompting a temporary shutdown of productions across the Los Angeles area until further testing is completed.

Blast at Wyo. oil storage site kills 3 workers
An explosion on Monday killed three workers who were laying a fuel line at a Wyoming oil storage site, an oil company spokesman said.

U.S. ambassador to Syria attacked
The U.S. Ambassador to Syria – who has repeatedly demonstrated his support for anti-government protestors – was attacked in Damascus last week by a supporter of President Bashal al-Assad, a new video shows.

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Hurricane cleanup: Labor Dep urges guarding against Irene cleanup hazards
As residents of North Carolina recover from damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Division of North Carolina’s Department of Labor urge workers and members of the public engaged in hurricane cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves.

New rule: Bosses must inform workers of right to organize
Tomorrow, August 30, a rule will be published in the federal register that mandates that almost all private employers must post a notice informing employees of their rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act. The decision, announced last week by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), applies to companies whether or not they have federal contracts.

Whoa! Bachman would lower minimum wage to cost of overseas labor
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Friday she wouldn’t rule out changes to the federal minimum wage as a way to lower the cost of doing business and lure corporations back to the United States.

NIOSH announces community-based anti-needlestick campaign
An estimated 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among health care workers in hospitals alone, exposing them to bloodborne pathogens. A new initiative focuses on raising awareness of the risks and trying to persuade workers to make changes necessary to reduce sharps injuries.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis signs agreements with Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and El Salvador ambassadors protecting rights of migrant workers
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today signed joint declarations and letters of arrangement with Ambassador Aníbal de Castro of the Dominican Republic, Ambassador Muni Figueres Boggs of Costa Rica and Ambassador Francisco Altschul of El Salvador to protect the labor rights of migrant workers from those countries who are employed in the United States. The ambassadors of Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, who previously signed agreements with the Labor Department, also participated in the ceremony.

US Labor Department’s MSHA to propose rule on proximity detection systems
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration will publish on Aug. 31 a proposed rule requiring that continuous mining machines used in underground coal mines be equipped with proximity detection systems. Proximity detection refers to a technology that can be installed on mining machinery to detect the presence of personnel or other machinery within a certain distance. These systems can be programmed to send warning signals and stop machine movement when the programmed areas are breached.

OSHA news releases rarely name company’s work comp carrier
When OSHA proposed penalties in January 2011 totaling nearly $1.4 million against two Illinois grain handling companies, I noticed the agency’s news release mentioned the employers’ workers compensation insurance carrier. It was the first time that I’d see this in an OSHA news release, and I wondered if it was the start of something new. Apparently, not.

Notre Dame unveils aerial lift safety effort
Out of a horrible tragedy, countless lives were ultimately saved. The late Declan Sullivan’s family achieved that goal Friday as Notre Dame unveiled its UpRight! campaign to promote hydraulic lift safety. Developed with the Indiana Department of Labor, the initiative — targeting athletic and marching band programs at the collegiate and high school levels — serves as a resource for administrators, videographers and others who oversee use of aerial lifts for shooting video and directing, according to a university statement.

Toy maker for Wal-Mart, Disney and Mattel accused of child labor
A factory that cranks out cheerful plastic tchotchkes for Mattel, Wal-Mart, and Disney uses child labor and grueling mandatory overtime, according to a new report by human rights activists.

MetroAccess bus drivers rally against MV Transportation, long hours
MetroAccess bus drivers carry nearly 2.5 million of D.C. metro area’s residents with disabilities as of the 2011 fiscal year — and they feel their new working schedules have made their driving dangerous. MV Transportation, the company that operates MetroAccess, began scheduling its drivers to work 13-hour shifts about six weeks ago.

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Women’s Equality Day – Are we there yet?
Ninety-one years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified, culminating almost two centuries of women struggling for the right to vote in the United States. Women now have the right to vote and have made advances in the workforce, education and many other fields. The observance of Women’s Equality Day is a day to reflect not only on the milestones and shattered ceilings of the past, but raise the question of whether equality has been reached.

NLRB alleges Target violated labor laws
Target illegally threatened on a number of occasions to close its store in Valley Stream, L.I., if workers successfully organized a union, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

Labor board to reproach restaurant in park
The strike at the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park has lasted more than two weeks, with 60 waiters, cooks and dishwashers picketing, chanting and drumming outside day after day. But now the strikers are getting some long-awaited outside support. The National Labor Relations Board is expected to issue a complaint accusing the restaurant of firing some workers for supporting the union. The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union matters, plans to issue a far-reaching legal complaint against the restaurant, federal officials and union leaders say.

No charges for judge accused of chokehold
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser will not face criminal charges over an accusation that he choked a liberal colleague, a prosecutor said Thursday. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Justice Prosser of choking her in June as the justices deliberated on a legal challenge to the Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious collective bargaining law, which strips most public workers of nearly all their union rights. Justice Prosser has denied the accusation.

U.S. workplace deaths exceed 4,500 in 2010, report says
After falling to record lows in each of the two previous years, workplace deaths held relatively steady in the U.S. in 2010, a preliminary tally shows. And when the final report is released next spring, the total is likely to be up somewhat from the 2009 level.

Analysis shows construction deaths slowing in U.S.
Construction fatalities declined by nearly 10 percent between 2009 and 2010 and by almost 40 percent during the past five years, according to an analysis of new federal data released Thursday by the Associated General Contractors of America.

NJ company cited by OSHA for chemical exposure gaffes
OSHA has cited Safas Corp. for 20 safety and health violations at its Clifton facility. The agency inspected the polymer and chemical maker as a result of a referral from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which alleged strong solvent odors. The total in proposed penalties is $135,000.

Remembering Steve Jobs’ record on workers’ rights
While Steve Jobs’ designs for computers may have put humans at their center, working conditions for Apple’s workers put profits at their center. Jobs did indeed revolutionize the computer industry, but in a way that was negative for American workers, who for decades have seen manufacturing job prospects dwindle as jobs go to workers overseas, who in turn often labor in brutal sweatshop conditions.

H&M investigates mass faintings at factory
H&M has said that it has not found any plausible causes for a series of mass faintings that have taken place in a Cambodian factory making its clothes.

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U.S. checks conditions for workers in walkout
The Department of Labor and the State Department opened investigations this week of job conditions at a Pennsylvania packing plant for Hershey’s chocolates where several hundred international exchange students walked off their jobs last week, protesting low pay and strenuous work.

Final rule for notification of employee rights
The National Labor Relations Board has issued a Final Rule requiring most private-sector employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act by posting a notice. The rule was placed on public inspection at the office of the Federal Register on August 25. It is scheduled to be posted in the Federal Register on August 30, 2011 and will take effect 75 days later, on November 14, 2011.

US zoos step up elephant safety rules
The US zoo association has issued tougher safety guidelines on elephants that include a requirement for all institutions to provide barriers that separate handlers from the animals. The guidelines, believed to be among the most stringent in the world, won praise from animal rights activists, although the zoo association said that its primary concern was the working conditions of elephant handlers.

Federal study finds link between military suicides and nutrition
Federal researchers have found further evidence of a link between nutrition and military suicides, which increasingly have plagued the U.S. armed forces over the past decade. In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the researchers concluded that low levels of highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids corresponded with a higher rate of suicides. The scientists found a particularly strong association between the military suicides and levels of DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, the major omega-3 fatty acid concentrated in the brain.

America’s most dangerous jobs
At least there is some good news on the employment front: the American workplace is a lot less hazardous than it was a decade ago. Only 4,547 workers died on the job last year, a 23% decline from the 5,915 fatalities that occurred in 2000, according to the latest report on workplace fatalities from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are some of the most dangerous jobs based on fatality rates per 100,000 workers.

Of dead bodies and dirty streets
In the fall of 1924, five bodies from New Jersey were delivered to the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office. You might not expect that to cause the chief medical examiner to worry about the dirt blowing in city streets. But it did. To understand why you need to know the story of those five dead men, or at least the story of their exposure to a then mysterious industrial poison.

OSHA cites UP for retaliating against workers
Federal authorities say Union Pacific retaliated against three employees who raised safety concerns, so the railroad should pay $615,215 in fines and compensation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday that it found evidence the Omaha-based railroad violated the rights of two conductors based in Kansas City, Mo., and an engineer based in Tucson, Ariz.

More than 100 protest alleged retaliation tactics at Chino warehouse
More than 100 protesters rallied Wednesday in front of a warehouse to denounce alleged retaliation tactics by its management and demand the company correct health and safety violations. At a rally at the Chino operations facility of NFI Industries, Warehouse Workers United members said they have been subjected to intimidation tactics, including veiled threats of job loss and assignment changes.

Jeffboat conducting review after third fatality in 16 months
Jeffboat management and union employees began a facility-wide review of equipment and processes at the shipyard Monday in response to last week’s fatality, said Kim Durbin, manager of corporate communications for American Commercial Lines. Steve Duncan, 54, of Pekin, had been an electrician at Jeffboat for 11 years when he was crushed to death between a barge and piece of equipment Friday morning.

Fourth fire this year strikes refinery that relies on toxic acid
In another sign of ongoing risks facing the refining industry and people who live nearby, a fire broke out Wednesday morning at Sunoco Inc.’s Philadelphia oil refinery. It was the fourth known blaze this year at the plant, which uses a highly toxic acid that threatens more than 1.3 million people in the Philadelphia area.

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California mental hospitals are dangerous, legislators told
At an Assembly committee hearing on safety issues at the state’s mental hospitals, lawmakers Tuesday received testimony about faulty alarm systems, daily assaults and an increasing number of patients with criminal histories.

MSHA announces results of July impact inspections
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 375 citations and orders during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and five metal/nonmetal mines last month.

Worker safety rulemaking 101, Part 2
The process of putting a new federal regulation in place to protect individuals from serious hazards at work often takes five or more years. Part 1 of “Worker safety rulemaking” described the steps leading up to OSHA proposing a new rule, to the point where the agency’s chief decides whether to send the draft proposed rule to the White House for approval.

Workers claim company is putting them in danger
KPRC Local 2 first broke this story earlier this month when an AT&T technician said his employer wouldn’t let him idle his company truck between jobs to cool down. AT&T denied the claim, but Local 2 investigator Amy Davis did some digging to get to the bottom of the safety issue. Telecommunications giant AT&T has one of the largest fleets in the nation, and behind the wheel, a fleet of technicians who are becoming increasingly hot, frustrated and outspoken.

6 Hanford waste workers quit over drug testing
Six workers at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site decided to quit rather than submit to drug testing after a baggie of marijuana was found in a building at a landfill, a spokesman for a cleanup contractor said Tuesday.

Journalists freed from Rixos Hotel in Libya
After a harrowing five days of confinement, scores of journalists have been freed from a Libya hotel. CNN’s Matthew Chance, one of the freed journalists, broke the news on Twitter. Chance was one of around 35 foreign nationals who was trapped inside the Rixos hotel, kept there by armed guards and pro-Gaddafi forces.

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Child Labor Rule Released By White House After 9 Month Delay
After much delay, the White House has finally released a proposed rule that would update child labor regulations in agricultural work. Put forth by the Department of Labor last fall, the rule had been stuck in red tape at the White House for nine months, angering workplace safety advocates who said the regulations need to be modernized.

U.S. Department of Labor improves enforcement databases
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced enhancements to its online enforcement database designed to improve public access to and understanding of the department’s enforcement actions. The updated website includes a number of new features, including map displays of inspection and violation data from the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Mine Safety and Health Administration, as well as the ability to view individual inspection records and the enforcement history of a particular company or mine.

Court Says Injured Worker Cannot Sue Airline
The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a maintenance worker who was injured in a conveyor belt at San Francisco International Airport cannot sue the airline that hired the contractor for which he worked.

Help Fight Discrimination Against the Unemployed
As if those odds weren’t difficult enough, jobless workers face another obstacle: Many employers are discriminating against the jobless by prohibiting them from even applying for open positions. Their “Help Wanted” signs come with a caveat—if you are unemployed, you need not apply.

Nurses Report Accidental Exposures to Cancer Drugs
Nurses who treat cancer patients with chemotherapy are at risk for dangerous accidental exposure to the drugs, according to a new study. As MyHealthNewsDaily reports, the University of Michigan researchers who conducted the study largely blamed the problem on under-staffing and limited resources at outpatient centers, where chemotherapy most often is delivered.

No Criminal Charges in Blaze That Killed Two Bridgeport Firefighters
There will be no criminal charges filed in connection with the fire that killed two Bridgeport firefighters last July, according to the state’s attorney’s office. Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michel Baik were killed while fighting the fire in the attic of the three-story building. The fire department was previously cited by federal officials for failing to adequately respond and oversee distress calls, for failures related to safety equipment and was urged to improve fitness training.

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