Cardin bill angers whistleblower advocates
Legislation drafted by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin to update the 1917 Espionage Act has angered public disclosure advocates who say the proposal would make it harder for federal employees to expose government fraud and abuse. The bill would clarify a murky area of law to ensure that anyone who publicly leaks classified material could be prosecuted criminally, which is not necessarily the case today. The proposal also would make it illegal for government employees to violate nondisclosure agreements.
Gingrich: Laws preventing child labor are ‘truly stupid’
Newt Gingrich proposed a plan last week that would allow poor children to clean their schools for money, saying such a setup would both allow students to earn income and endow them with a strong work ethic. Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the former House Speaker said his system would be an improvement on current child labor laws, which he called “truly stupid.”
Another class action lawsuit against Walmart warehouse
With Black Friday sales beginning Thanksgiving at 10 p.m., Walmart expects to bring in many millions in sales this week on the single most important shopping day of the year. Meanwhile workers in Walmart’s warehouses in Chicago and southern California charge that the logistics companies contracted by the mega-retailer are nickel-and-diming them, shaving dollars off their hourly wages as temporary workers and obscuring the practice by failing to give them accurate pay stubs.
New Jersey nurses charge religious discrimination over hospital abortion policy
A dozen nurses in New Jersey have rekindled the contentious debate over when health-care workers can refuse to play a role in caring for women getting abortions. In a lawsuit filed in federal court Oct. 31, 12 nurses charge that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal laws by abruptly announcing in September that nurses would have to help with abortion patients before and after the procedure, reversing a long-standing policy exempting employees who refuse based on religious or moral objections.
Federal officials issue alert on cancer-causing erionite
Federal health officials are calling for protective measures at job sites where workers may be exposed to erionite, a cancer-causing mineral similar to asbestos that is found in rock and soil in at least a dozen western states. An advisory published last week by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended a series of steps to prevent employee exposure to eronite fibers at sites such as gravel quarries and road projects.
Interior drilling regulators prepare new penalties over BP spill
The Interior Department’s offshore drilling branch is preparing to issue a second round of regulatory violation notices to companies involved in last year’s BP oil spill, a top official said Monday. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Michael Bromwich said the so-called Incidents of Noncompliance notices could be sent to BP, Transocean and Halliburton in the next couple of weeks.
MSHA should scrap any plan to wait for OSHA action on respirable crystalline silica
I’m going to pay close attention to what the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says about its plans to propose a rule to protect workers in the mining industry from respirable crystalline silica. It’s a hazard that is associated with the progressive, fibrotic lung disease silicosis, as well as lung cancer, and autoimmune and kidney disorders. I’m going to cringe if the next regulatory agenda MSHA issues suggests that progress on its proposed silica rule is linked to OSHA’s efforts to address the same hazard.
Number of suffocation deaths in grain bins is increasing
Working in grain bins is one of the most dangerous jobs in what has become America’s most hazardous industry: agriculture. And while deaths from grain elevator explosions such as the one in Atchison have become rare, grain bin accidents such as the one that killed Patrick Hayes are rising. Indeed, grain suffocation deaths last year reached an all-time high of 26. Despite those rising deaths, little has changed since Hayes died nearly two decades ago.
Airport workers say pay is illegally low
Elda Burke, 30, works as a passenger attendant at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, escorting the elderly and disabled to and from their gates by wheelchair. Even though the airlines describe this as a free service, Burke’s employer has her working partly for tips, which is why her base pay is a low $6.50 an hour, somewhat like a restaurant server’s, rather than the typical Illinois minimum wage of $8.25. But unlike diners at a restaurant, many of the passengers Burke will be escorting on their holiday travels this week won’t realize she’s working for tips — and by federal law, she won’t be allowed to tell them.
Let journalists work, city police are ordered
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has issued an internal message ordering officers in New York City not to interfere unreasonably with journalists’ access during news media coverage and warning that those who do will be subject to disciplinary action. The message was being read at police precinct station houses around New York on Wednesday. It came after journalists, including two from The Associated Press, were arrested covering Occupy Wall Street protests.