Archive for January, 2012

N.F.L. Super Bowl ad will stress safety
To the usual lineup of beer and car commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, add this: one about player safety. For the first time, the N.F.L., currently the target of more than a dozen lawsuits accusing it of deliberately concealing information about the effects on players of repeated hits to the head, will use one minute of its own commercial time during its signature event to address player safety, its most critical and sobering problem.

Slow progress by OSHA to improve worker health and safety regulations
The Labor Department provided an update on January 20, 2012 to its regulatory agenda, including revised target dates for improved workplace safety and health standards. Several of the rules OSHA now expects to publish in 2012 are regulations the agency previously said would be issued one or two years ago. Missed deadlines, however, are nothing new for OSHA—an agency that has only issued two new major health or safety standards in the last 10 years.

Three years after Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed, women still earn far less than men
Sunday marked the third anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first legislation signed into law by President Obama. The law, which expanded the statute of limitations on fair pay lawsuits, was a response to a Supreme Court ruling against Ledbetter in her fair pay case. Though the law expanded the legal remedies available to women who have been victims of discriminatory pay, little has been done to address the pay gap that exists between male and female employees.

Women don’t think they deserve raises
Gals! If you don’t think you’re worth more money why would anyone else think you’re worth more money? I just read two reports this morning about employees and their expectations for raises this year, and it turns out male workers are pretty optimistic. Women, not so much.

Pregnant, and pushed out of a job
Few people realize that getting pregnant can mean losing your job. Imagine a woman who, seven months into her pregnancy, is fired from her position as a cashier because she needed a few extra bathroom breaks. Or imagine another pregnant employee who was fired from her retail job after giving her supervisors a doctor’s note requesting she be allowed to refrain from heavy lifting and climbing ladders during the month and a half before her maternity leave. We see this kind of case in our legal clinic all the time. It happens every day to pregnant women in the United States, and it happens thanks to a gap between discrimination laws and disability laws.

Federal work pays better, government study finds
Federal civilian workers, on average, get 16 percent more in wages and benefits than their private-sector counterparts, according to a study released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The study found that the pay differential varied significantly by education level but on average, the federal government paid its civilian employees 2 percent higher wages and 48 percent more in benefits than private-sector employers.

Revel, Atlantic City’s newest casino, to impose term limits for employees
In this sluggish labor market, many job-seekers would be happy to land a full-time position. But for workers at one Atlantic City casino, getting a job may not mean keeping it. Workers at Atlantic City’s highly anticipated Revel casino, including bellhops and blackjack dealers, will be subject to term limits of four to six years, at the end of which they will repeat the hiring process, NPR reports.

Brazilian Blowout maker agrees to labeling changes
The maker of a popular line of hair-straightening products has agreed to alert consumers that two of its formulations emit formaldehyde gas, a possible carcinogen, California’s attorney general announced Monday. The labeling changes are designed to settle a lawsuit the state filed in November against the company that makes Brazilian Blowout products, which have been a boon for those who dislike their naturally curly tresses but a source of health concerns.

Wyo. safety officials issue citations for August oil facility explosion that killed 3 workers
Wyoming safety regulators have issued 19 citations for an explosion and fire that killed three workers near an oil well last year, an example of the trouble that has plagued a state that consistently records some of the nation’s worst workplace fatality rates.

US Department of Labor’s OSHA fines Polymerics in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, after worker’s hand amputated by shear machine
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Polymerics with four safety violations, including a willful violation for failing to ensure that a rubber-cutting shear was kept in good working order after a worker suffered an amputation at the company’s Cuyahoga Falls rubber manufacturing facility.

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Study: Workplace safety programs work if strongly enforced
A longstanding California occupational safety program requiring all businesses to eliminate workplace hazards can help prevent injuries to workers, but only if it is adequately enforced, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation. The first-ever evaluation of the California Injury and Illness Prevention Program found evidence that the program reduces workplace injuries, but only at businesses that had been cited for not addressing the regulation’s more-specific safety mandates.

Stolen Valor Act: Denver appeals court upholds military impostor law
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a federal law making it illegal to lie about being a war hero is constitutional and making false statements is not always protected free speech. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the Denver-based court reverses a district judge’s decision that the Stolen Valor Act violates the First Amendment.

Domestic workers and their children march for rights in Calif.
Early Tuesday morning, buses of domestic workers and their children began arriving at the huge grassy mall in front of California’s state capitol building. One five-year-old raised her fist in the air as the crowd chanted, calling on members of the state Assembly and Senate to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. In the case of those caring for the aged, sick or disabled, the conditions of that work can seem like something a century ago.

Chart: Nearly one quarter of American workers are in low wage jobs, more than in other developed nations
According to data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation that was highlighted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, nearly 25 percent of American workers are in low-wage jobs, defined as “earning less than two-thirds of the national median hourly wage.” This is higher than many other industrialized nations, including the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

Apple’s record profits built on grinding employees into dust – then blowing them up
After unveiling profits that smashed expectations and broke revenue records, it’s been a big week for Apple, but a recent investigative report brings the company’s rosy report crashing back to earth. After a string of highly publicized suicides at Foxconn in 2009, Apple pledged to clean up its act and tighten policies on worker health and quality of life. The company’s decision to release its list of suppliers after years of stonewalling is a positive step towards this goal, but evidence shows there’s a long way to go.

Southwest employee dies after accident at Dulles
A Southwest Airlines employee died overnight after an accident at Dulles International Airport, according to a spokesman for the facility. Robert Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said the worker was piloting a baggage cart when it collided with one of the Dulles people movers.

Apple’s Tim Cook expresses ‘outrage’ over NYT report on worker safety
Yesterday, The New York Times published a comprehensive report including quotes from former and current Apple executives, alleging that Apple pushes its Chinese suppliers to cut corners at the expense of worker safety. Apple has a strong formal stance on supplier responsibility, and the NYT report doesn’t dispute that, but suggested that despite Apple’s regular audits, the company doesn’t protect the labor force when it would interfere with profit. Now, an internal email from Apple CEO Tim Cook has leaked to 9to5 Mac, partially disputing the NYT report.

New study finds green jobs are not necessarily safer jobs
A new study published in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management has determined that “green” jobs, or jobs constructing buildings that conserve energy and have small environmental footprints, pose greater safety risks to workers than conventional construction jobs. Researchers believe that these increases are caused by the new technologies used in green construction projects.

Two contractors fined for heat illness last summer
We want to share updates about two heat illness cases we reported to you last summer. These are cases where Cal-OSHA cited and fined farm labor contractors for violating California’s heat regulation. The UFW helped bring these cases to the attention of Cal-OSHA and to the public. Cal-OSHA has issued fines for the violations. Can you help us tell Cal-OSHA to see these cases through, conduct follow up inspections, not reduce the fines and treat any subsequent violations by the same companies more severely?

Collapse at Cincinnati casino site hurts a dozen
Federal investigators are now in Cincinnati where about a dozen construction workers have been injured in a collapse at a casino. Cincinnati’s fire chief says a crew was pouring concrete Friday when a support beam gave way, sending the workers tumbling 30 feet to the ground.

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In China, human costs are built into an iPad
Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history. However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

State of the Union address barely mentions unions
Tuesday night, President Obama gave his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress—but barely mentioned unions. The president did touch on a number of issues important to workers—such as increasing manufacturing in America, taxing the rich more equitably, increasing education funding and increasing enforcement of trade laws—but said nothing about increased attacks on workers’ rights around the country during the last 12 months.

D.C. fire chief to push for controversial change in firefighters’ work shifts
Dozens of District firefighters showed their displeasure with proposed changes to their schedules by standing at attention and marching off in unison after their chief’s “state of the department” speech Tuesday. Kenneth B. Ellerbe, chief of the city’s Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said he will fight for a change from the current 24-72 system, in which firefighters work for 24 hours and then rest for three days, toward a 3-3-3 schedule — three consecutive 12-hour shifts during the day, three consecutive 12-hour shifts at night and then three days of rest.

Did Warren Buffet-owned company’s prison-made product break U.S. law?
Earlier this month, a company owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway—Shaw Industries Group Inc.—admitted to violating Canadian law by shipping flooring made by U.S. prison labor into Canada. But a prison industry expert tells In These Times that the company may have also broken American law by not clearly labeling its goods as partly deriving from prison labor.

Super Bowl players should stand up for Indiana workers
Just two weeks before Super Bowl XLVI kicks off at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, more than10,000 people marched through the city to protest right-to-work legislation that is being pushed through the state’s legislature. The legislation passed the state Senate this week and the state House today, and is backed by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Considering the NFL nearly lost its 2011 season, and Super Bowl XLVI with it, to a labor dispute, Indiana Republicans’ assault on workers is a cause the players should be familiar with.

‘Get a job’? Not so easy for teens, as adults snap up openings
Even as the economy slowly picks up, finding a job is harder than ever for teenagers, according to a national study released on Tuesday. That’s likely because the jobs that are being “created” in recent months are being snapped up by adults—often people over age 50 who were laid off from other positions or forced out of retirement during the economic crisis. Meanwhile, funding for youth jobs has suffered because of state and local budget crises, and significant “stimulus” funding for youth jobs and training under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has now expired.

OSHA: Companies not at fault for girls’ deaths
Neither the company that hired them nor the seed company it contracted with are responsible in the electrocutions of two 14-year-old Sterling detasselers, OSHA said Wednesday. “No evidence” suggests either R&J Enterprises of Illinois or Monsanto could have known about the safety hazard, which apparently was caused after lightning struck a field irrigation system, leaving it “energized,” the Occupational Health and Safety Administration said at the conclusion of its 6-month investigation.

Connecticut construction company faces up to $169,000 in workplace safety fines
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators said Penney Construction of Hartford provided no protection against a possible cave-in to workers repairing a sewer line in a 10-foot trench. Penney, accused of continuing to send workers into the trench even after being alerted to the hazard, was cited for two willful violations and five serious violations. It also was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections.

OSHA accuses Ill. firm of violations in Wisconsin
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has accused an Illinois company of five safety violations at a grain-handling facility in Wisconsin. OSHA says the company knowingly failed to take steps to protect workers before they entered grain bins. Growmark is also accused of failing to provide body harnesses or rescue equipment for work inside bins.

Bill Mardo, writer who pushed baseball to integrate, dies at 88
Bill Mardo, a sportswriter for the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker who fought major league baseball’s color barrier in the 1940s when the mainstream American news media was largely silent on the subject, died Friday in Manhattan. In the years before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson as the first black player in modern organized baseball, Mr. Mardo was a leading voice in a campaign by The Daily Worker against racism in the game, a battle it had begun in 1936 when Lester Rodney became its first sports editor.

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Silica rule sits at White House, endangering lives, worker safety advocates say
A long-awaited federal rule designed to protect workers in the construction and mining industries has been tied up in red tape at the White House, leading scientists to worry that the rule has been left in limbo due to political concerns. The rule put forth by the Labor Department would limit workers’ exposure to crystalline silica, a dangerous breathable dust commonly found in sand, granite and other materials used in construction. For construction workers and sandblasters in particular, breathing the dust over the course of years has long been known to lead to silicosis, a respiratory disease linked to lung cancer and respiratory failure.

Sickened and still waiting for justice: 9/11 first responders and Cold War nuclear weapons workers battle for fair compensation
On the one-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Zadroga Act into law, sickened 9/11 first responders and survivors were faced with a very difficult decision: in order to be considered for possible compensation benefits under the Zadroga Act, these 9/11 heroes would be required to drop any possible private litigation regarding illnesses developed from toxic exposures at the World Trade Center (WTC) site. For those sickened with cancer, the choice was far more ominous since the Zadroga Act does not currently provide compensation benefits for anyone that has developed cancer – and it remains unclear when cancer victims will be covered under the Zadroga Act, if ever.

Landmark condom law for porn filming signed by L.A. mayor
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has signed into law historic new rules requiring porn performers to wear condoms while acting in areas requiring a city film permit. The law is believed to be the first in the nation by a local government requiring condom use among porn stars, and is significant because L.A.’s San Fernando Valley is the capital of the multibillion-dollar porn industry.

District’s ‘prostitution free zones’ likely unconstitutional, AG’s office says
The D.C. Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday the District’s temporary “prostitution free zones” are likely unconstitutional, raising fresh doubts about a bill before the D.C. Council to broaden the zones and make them permanent.

Workers urge need for safety in refinery industry
Dozens of workers from the oil refinery industry hoped to create public awareness on Saturday afternoon with a message they believe resonates to a vital workforce in the region. Representatives from local chapters of the United Steelworkers and employees from local refineries in the petrochemical industry marked this year’s National Day of Action for Safe Refineries and Good Jobs with a rally they hoped would spark both public awareness and industry consciousness for the well-being of workers.

Average is over
In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

MSHA announces results of December impact inspections
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 321 citations and orders during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and three metal/nonmetal mines last month.

Fairbury company says it’s working with OSHA
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed to fine Loveland Products Inc. in Fairbury $148,000 for 25 safety violations, 14 related to OSHA’s standard regulating process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals.

U.S. forces rescue kidnapped aid workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted in Somalia
U.S. special operations forces have rescued a kidnapped American aid worker and her Danish colleague in Somalia, the White House and officials with the aid organization said Wednesday. Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, were abducted by a group of armed men in the Somali town of Galkayo on Oct. 25.

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Mitt Romney’s maids’ salary half that of a typical housekeeper
For a woman with three houses and sixteen grandkids, Ann Romney doesn’t have very much help around the house, according to her 2010 tax return. IRS forms released Tuesday by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign show that despite reporting income of $21.7 million, the couple paid only $20,603 in taxable wages for household help in 2010. This figure was divided among four women.

Federal job discrimination complaints rose to all-time high last year
Federal job discrimination complaints rose to an all-time high last year, led by an increase in bias charges based on religion and national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 100,000 charges of discrimination during the 2011 fiscal year, the most in its 46-year history.

California considers outlawing discrimination against unemployed
Lawmakers are trying to make California the second state in the nation to ban hiring discrimination against the unemployed. A bill introduced Jan. 5 and sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Michael Allen wouldn’t allow unemployed job-seekers to sue for discrimination, but companies that violate the law would face investigation and fines of up to $10,000.

Obama’s OSHA puts protecting workers from dangers of combustible dust on back burner
When we last left our friends at the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they had no timeline to speak of for coming out with a new regulation aimed at protecting American workers from the increasingly obvious dangers of combustible dust. As best I can tell, OSHA has yet to convene that SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) panel. So imagine my surprise when the combustible dust rule didn’t show up on this new list of OSHA’s rulemaking priorities.

Anniversary of a death in a New York sweatshop
A year ago today, Juan Baten, a 22-year-old Guatemalan, was crushed to death while working in a Brooklyn tortilla factory. Mr. Baten was one of 35,000 workers in a little-known, but indispensable part of New York’s food system: a sprawling industrial sector of food processing factories and distribution warehouses that supply the grocery stores and restaurants where New Yorkers purchase their food. A year later, justice has still not been done in Mr. Baten’s case and New York’s food supply chain continues to rely on the systematic exploitation of recent immigrant workers, many from Latin America and China.

Whistleblower says BP fired him for refusing to skew cleanup data
A leader in BP’s oil spill cleanup claims the company fired him for refusing to change data so that BP could claim the cleanup phase was over and it could begin restoration, which a BP vice president told him “would have an upward impact on BP stock prices.” August Walter sued BP America in federal court.

Hire just one: Congress looks at philanthropist’s unusual jobs idea
Philanthropist Gene Epstein says he donated $250,000 to assorted charities on behalf of businesses that hired unemployed people starting in 2009. Now he’s trying to broaden his impact, attempting to sway Congress on a bill to encourage hiring the unemployed. Several members of the House of Representatives have taken an interest in Epstein’s idea, which would allow businesses to collect a new hire’s remaining weeks of unemployment insurance in a move similar to a measure introduced in the House last year by Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio).

OSHA seeks fines from turkey processor
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking $318,000 in fines from Jennie-O Turkey Store Inc. after an employee at a northwestern Wisconsin slaughterhouse lost his arm in an industrial accident. The worker’s arm got caught in a moving shackle line that should have been turned off as he cleaned a confined tunnel in which birds are stunned with carbon dioxide, an OSHA spokeswoman said Monday.

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More lockouts as companies battle unions
America’s unionized workers, buffeted by layoffs and stagnating wages, face another phenomenon that is increasingly throwing them on the defensive: lockouts. From the Cooper Tire factory in Findlay, Ohio, to a country club in Southern California and sugar beet processing plants in North Dakota, employers are turning to lockouts to press their unionized workers to grant concessions after contract negotiations deadlock. Even the New York City Opera locked out its orchestra and singers for more than a week before settling the dispute last Wednesday.

Ledbetter anniversary
Sunday marks the three-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill aimed at improving equality in the workplace. Contrary to what feminists would have you believe, however, protective laws like Lilly Ledbetter actually increase the cost of employing women — especially of childbearing age — by creating the threat of lawsuits and uncertainty.

U.S. work-related injuries, illnesses cost $250 billion annually: study
A UC Davis researcher has estimated the national annual price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses at $250 billion. This figure is $31 billion more than the direct and indirect costs of all cancer, $76 billion more than diabetes, and $187 billion more than strokes. The study suggests that the U.S. should place greater emphasis on reducing work-related injury and illnesses, especially since the costs have risen by more than $33 billion (inflation adjusted) since a 1992 analysis, the author said.

Is OSHA getting tougher? For 2nd time ever, federal agency pushes company-wide settlement
When the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cites a company for workplace safety violations, it usually tells it to fix the problems at the specific location where the violation was discovered. But in an unusual—and for safety advocates, promising—move, the Department of Labor (DOL) agency is pushing for “enterprise-wide” changes as part of a violation settlement. Last week, for the second time in OSHA history, the Labor Department told the agency to force more than 60 locations of a New England-based grocery chain to comply with federal standards protecting workers from falls and lacerations.

How the U.S. lost out on iPhone work
Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Foxconn City has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day.

Safety board faults pilots who tried to outrun storms in fatal helicopter crashes in SC, Tenn.
Federal safety investigators on Friday faulted pilots who tried to outrun approaching storms in two fatal medical helicopter crashes in South Carolina and Tennessee. The National Transportation Safety Board issued very similar findings in both crashes, saying the pilots could have made safer decisions, but risked flying into bad weather in order to return home. Two pilots and four flight nurses were killed in the 2009 and 2010 crashes.

Report reveals fatal lapses in UCLA lab safety leading to death of 23 year-old lab tech
A previously confidential report prepared by the California Bureau of Investigations (BOI) reveals a reckless disregard for worker safety by a UCLA chemistry professor (and the university itself) which led to the 2009 death of research assistant Sheri Sangji, 23. Sangji was a new employee in a UCLA chemistry lab. She was hired primarily to set up lab equipment, but on Dec. 29, 2008 she was assigned to use a highly reactive liquid that spontaneously ignites when exposed to air. The BOI report calls into question UCLA’s claims that the young woman was a trained and experienced chemist.

Sobering report places responsibility for plutonium contamination on Idaho lab managers
The contamination of 16 workers at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials Fuels Complex in November shook the nuclear establishment in eastern Idaho to its core. It appears today that none of the workers are suffering any immediate effects from the uncontrolled release of oxidized plutonium from package of weapons grade plutonium at the retired zero power physics reactor. But the break down in basic safety measures the accident revealed hit the site like nothing seen since the early 1990s.

Cal/OSHA fines warehouse that distributes for Wal-Mart and Kmart $250,000 for poor working condition
The plight of the warehouse worker is one of corporate America’s best kept secrets despite consistently tough conditions and low wages. In places where temperatures routinely reach triple digits in the summer, the job can be even more grueling. Conditions often do not meet safety standards and a culture of exploitation is often seen as par for course. In California, one warehouse that has been recently disciplined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration belongs to NFI/National Distribution and serves as a major import distribution center for WalMart, Kmart/Sears and Polo. Cal/OSHA fined NFI and Tristate Staffing a total of $256,000, showing the serious stance OSHA is trying to take on behalf of warehouse workers across the nation.

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The right to be healthy: Supreme Court weighs sick leave for state workers
One day in August 2007, Daniel Coleman, an administrator in the Maryland court system, decided he should stay home to recover from an illness, as his doctor had ordered. But the day after he requested time off, he suddenly had more to worry about than his health; he was unemployed, too. In many industrialized countries around the world, taking time off from work to deal with a medical issue isn’t just a benefit; it’s considered an entitlement, as much as an eight-hour day. But in the world’s richest nation, a worker who claims that right has had to appeal to the highest court in the land. So the Supreme Court will now weigh the rights of public employees to seek justice under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Supreme Court discrimination ruling confuses religious workers
Aleeza Adelman teaches Jewish studies at a Jewish school, yet she considers herself a teacher whose subject is religion, not a religious teacher. She’s rethinking how to define her job after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling left her wondering what could happen if she ever needed to defend her right to keep it. The high court ruled last week that religious workers can’t sue for job discrimination, but didn’t describe what constitutes a religious employee – putting many people employed by churches, synagogues or other religious organizations in limbo over their rights.

Cost of work-related injury and disease higher than cost for heart disease, cancer
Money talks, as the saying goes, and a recently published paper on the annual cost of work-related injuries and illnesses should get policymakers to listen up. The number is staggering: $250 billion, and it’s a figure on par with health conditions like cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes that attract much more attention and research funding.

Active-duty soldiers take their own lives at record rate
Suicides among active-duty soldiers hit another record high in 2011, Army officials said on Thursday, although there was a slight decrease if nonmobilized Reserve and National Guard troops were included in the calculation. The Army also reported a sharp increase, nearly 30 percent, in violent sex crimes last year by active-duty troops. More than half of the victims were active-duty female soldiers ages 18 to 21.

U.S. Army: Sex crimes by soldiers up 97 percent in five years
Military leaders vowed this week to curb sexual assaults by and against U.S. soldiers after the release of a new report revealing that violent sex crimes committed by Army personnel nearly doubled since 2006. The majority of reported sex crimes occurred on U.S. soil, the Army said.

Federal report finds laboratory accident that exposed employees to radiation was preventable
An accident at the Idaho National Laboratory that exposed 16 employees to plutonium radiation could have been prevented, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy. Inadequate safety measures and ineffective training contributed to the November contamination and lab officials missed several opportunities to make changes, states a report released Wednesday by the Energy Department’s Office of Health, Safety and Security.

Some Pantex workers now eligible for compensation
After 24 years in the nuclear weapons complex — six years in Iowa and 18 years at Pantex — Roy died of lung cancer three years later, but his son said he can’t find any medical records of the deadly diagnosis. Now, workers’ medical claims in a specific class, called a “special exposure cohort,” will be streamlined — paving a path to a $150,000 lump sum plus paid medical care for a covered condition.

Labor, officials call for more regulation at waste-sorting facility in Atwater Village
Labor leaders and city officials rallied outside an Atwater Village plant Thursday morning to call for more regulation of the private waste industry. The company is under investigation by California Division of Occupational Safety and Health over worker conditions. The California Labor Commissioner is also investigating retaliation threats made against those who complain at the site.

New Mexico lawmaker blames asbestos exposure for stage IV lung cancer
New Mexico’s House Speaker announced this week that he has been battling Stage IV lung cancer since 2009. What’s more Ben Lujan told his colleagues and constituents, is that he contracted the disease despite the fact he is not a smoker. Lujan, 76, has worked full-time, won an election and maintained a real sense of normalcy, and he said he believes his cancer is a result of asbestos exposure while working as an ironworker in a previous job.

Canadian skier Sarah Burke dies from injuries
Top Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, seen as an early Olympic gold medal favorite ahead of the 2014 games, died on Thursday from injuries sustained in a training accident in Utah last week, a family spokeswoman said. Considered one of the leading half-pipe athletes in the world, the 29-year-old was airlifted to Salt Lake City last Tuesday after falling during a half-pipe run in Park City, Utah.

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