Archive for June, 2012

Most states flunk wage theft test
A new report from the Progressive States Network (PSN) finds that workers in 44 states have little to no protection against wage theft. “Where Theft Is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States” reports that states’ wage theft laws are grossly inadequate, contributing to a rising trend in workplace violations that affect millions of people throughout the country.

Why chicken is getting safer to eat, more dangerous to produce
Newly-drafted USDA regulations aimed at protecting public health may make poultry safer to eat, but there’s a trade-off that puts worker health and safety on the line.

Assessing consumer concerns about the meat industry
On Thursday’s Fresh Air, Tom Philpott, who covers food and the agricultural industry for Mother Jones, joins Fresh Air’s Terry Gross for a wide-ranging discussion about the meat and poultry industries — covering topics like pink slime, proposed legislation affecting antibiotics in the livestock food chain, labor issues within the meat industry, and the practice of feeding “chicken litter” to cows, which raises concerns about passing along bovine spongiform encephalopathy into the food chain.

Olympics crackdown on sex trade condemned by Stop the Arrests
Brooke Magnanti, the author better known by her alias, the fictional call girl Belle de Jour, has warned that the policing of sex workers in the run-up to the Olympics is putting their lives at risk. Sex workers claim the police tactics are stopping them from reporting crime

Airflow problems plague CDC bioterror lab
A $214M bioterror germ lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has had repeated problems with airflow systems designed to help prevent the release of infectious agents, government documents and internal e-mails show. CDC engineers have raised written concerns about the air containment systems since at least 2010.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and ambassadors of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador sign agreements on migrant worker rights
During a ceremony at U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis signed partnership agreements with ambassadors representing the embassies of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador. Under the agreements, regional enforcement offices of the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Wage and Hour Division will cooperate with local consulates of the four countries. Together, the consulates and Labor Department agencies will reach out to migrant workers with information about U.S. health, safety and wage laws.

Greek workers choose working without pay over no work at all
A growing number of Greek workers are facing a stark choice: Work for no pay, or risk never getting paid again. An increasing number of Greek companies and institutions cannot pay their employees, creditors, and others because they aren’t being paid either — particularly by the government and other businesses, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Another suicide at Apple-linked manufacturing plant in China
A 23-year-old Chinese Foxconn worker jumped to his death on Wednesday — the latest in a series of suicides at the Apple supplier’s plant that had rights’ groups worldwide voicing concern. The death is the first since the company said it would improve conditions for workers.

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House GOP blocking abortion access for soldiers who are raped
Republican Senators John McCain, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins all support an effort by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, to expand abortion access for military women who are raped. But despite bipartisan support in the Senate, Shaheen’s proposal may not make it into the final version of the 2013 defense authorization bill—because House Republicans oppose it.

U.S. military, experts working to curb suicides
Mental-health experts, the U.S. military, the groups that aid returning service members, their families are trying to provide a sense of support for veterans and active-duty troops in an attempt to prevent the growing number of suicides. American troops have been taking their own lives in alarmingly increasing numbers over this past decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tougher labor rules to protect children at farms fail
The federal government and safety groups are working to build awareness of farm hazards after a Labor Department decision to withdraw regulations that would have restricted children’s work on farms. Opposition from farm groups and farm-state members of Congress helped scuttle the proposal, which would have barred those younger than 16 who were being paid from using power-driven equipment such as tractors. Those under 18 would have been unable to work at grain elevators, silos and feedlots. The rules would not have applied to children working at farms owned by their parents but would have prevented youngsters from some jobs for pay at neighbors’ and relatives’ farms.

Lawmaker calls for convenience store safety regulations
An Indiana legislator is calling for mandatory safety regulations at convenience stores where late-night employees are at high risk for harm. Rep. Ed Delaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said convenience stores that fail to invest in security measures to protect their workers have an unfair economic advantage over those that do. Delaney made the call for state legislation that would mandate safety measures at high-risk convenience stores, following a meeting where state labor officials recommended some of those measures be adopted voluntarily.

The 20 million
Help wanted: Salary: $19K (some may be withheld or stolen). No health insurance, paid sick days or paid vacation. Opportunity for advancement: nearly nil.

WHO’s cancer agency: Diesel fumes cause cancer
Diesel fumes cause cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency declared Tuesday, a ruling it said could make exhaust as important a public health threat as secondhand smoke. He said the fumes affected groups including pedestrians on the street, ship passengers and crew, railroad workers, truck drivers, mechanics, miners and people operating heavy machinery.

NIEHS renews study call for Gulf oil spill workers; residents still waiting for services
Unfortunately for those who fear the spill or its cleanup made them sick, there’s a massive dearth in research on the health effects of being exposed to oil spills and the chemical dispersants used to clean them up. It’s a serious problem and one that makes it incredibly difficult — if not impossible — for those affected to be compensated for related health claims. Just a few weeks ago in late May, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin put out a call to help fill the glaring gap. TV, radio and internet ads now feature Benjamin on oil spill clean-up workers to take part in the national Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study (the GuLF Study), the largest study of its kind to examine long-term health consequences among oil spill clean-up workers and volunteers.

Ahead of season, Pop Warner renews safety emphasis
In an attempt to cut down on concussion-related injuries, Pop Warner football announced Tuesday that it was banning head-to-head hits and limiting contact in practice to 40 minutes a day. But already there is debate among coaches about whether the measures go too far or not far enough.

GEO Group fined $104K, accused of allowing workers to be victims of violence at Miss. prison
A private prison operator that’s giving up its business in Mississippi could face up to $104,000 in fines from federal workplace safety regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said GEO Group exposed employees to assaults by inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Lost Gap.

US Department of Labor’s OSHA cites Zoto’s International for chemical, electrical and mechanical hazards at Geneva, NY, plant
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Zoto’s International Inc. with 44 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at the company’s Geneva manufacturing plant. The maker of hair care products faces a total of $233K in fines for a cross-section of chemical, mechanical and electrical hazards following an inspection by OSHA’s Syracuse Area Office.

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Republicans block Dems’ equal pay for women bill
Republicans filibustered Democratic-led legislation aimed at closing the pay gap between women and men. The measure would beef up protections for women who sue employers for gender-based wage discrimination or discuss pay with their co-workers — and the GOP blocked it just as it did in late 2010 when the Paycheck Fairness Act last came up. The cloture motion went down 52-47 — short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.

Remarks by the president on equal pay for equal work via conference call
I don’t have to tell you how much this matters to families across the country. All of you are working day in, day out, to support the basic principle, equal pay for equal work. And we’ve made progress. But we’ve got a lot more to do. Women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. It’s worse for African American women and Latinas. Over the course of her career a woman with a college degree is going to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who is doing the same work.

Mitt Romney mum on paycheck fairness bill
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney still won’t say whether he supports a Senate bill to ensure equal pay for women, despite fresh criticism by Democrats that his silence is hurting the legislation’s chance of becoming law. In separate calls with reporters, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) on Monday urged Romney to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would require employers to demonstrate that any salary differences between men and woman in the same job are not gender-related.

The White House’s use of data on the gender wage gap
The debate over the latest legislation to address the gap in pay between men and women is a great opportunity to explore the various ways these data are collected and often used for political purposes. There is no perfect source of data — the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics come up with different numbers even though they can draw on similar data sets — but often advocates of action will tend to pick the worst possible figure to advance their cause.

Women earn 91 cents for every dollar men earn–if you control for life choices
On its face, the gender wage gap is enormous: women working full-time earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, contributing to a $431K lifetime wage gap, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the numbers don’t tell the full story.

Frack sand: An easily overlooked occupational hazard
Tap water bursting into flame, water sources contaminated with toxic chemicals, once-pastoral rural hillsides turned over to industrial fossil fuel extraction, and unprecedented earthquake activity. These are among the environmental health concerns commonly associated with the extraction of natural gas by the method known as hydraulic fracturing – or fracking. But one of the more pernicious and pervasive potential occupational fracking hazards may come from sand.

Two Central Valley deaths may be heat-related
Two workers who died on the job in the Central Valley may have been victims of heat illness, the California Department of Industrial Relations says Tuesday.

OSHA reaction from a SeaWorld trainer
I’ve long felt that trainers at SeaWorld have to be able to achieve a certain degree of cognitive dissonance to be able to say on the one hand that they love the killer whales, and on the other hand be witness to the early deaths, the tooth drilling, the sunburnt skin, the social instability and aggression, and all the other chronic effects of captivity. If Welsch’s ruling stands, perhaps it will be harder to maintain this cognitive dissonance, because the ultimate experience of working with a killer whale–waterwork–could be gone. So maybe the reality will start to trump the fantasy for more trainers.

Sex trafficking ring from Mexico to New York discovered
80 miles from the country’s capital of Mexico City, Tenancingo is considered to be the country’s epicenter for sex trafficking. Inside the three-story houses which lie inside gated communities are thriving businesses of prostitution and sex-trafficking, according to the New York Daily News. But in the past 20 years, the business has expanded well beyond the streets of Tenancingo. Sex trafficking from the Mexican city fuels much of the prostitution in New York City.

Guillermo Lopez-Molina charged with shooting co-worker with nail gun
A Hyattsville man has been arrested for shooting a co-worker with a nail gun, inflicting possibly life-threatening injuries. Witnesses told police that Lopez-Molina got into an argument with a fellow worker while framing a house in Edgewater. Afterwards, they say Lopez-Molina shot a 34-year-old Laurel man with a nail gun.

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Fracking fatalities: organized labor implores federal agencies to stop the killings
As hydraulic fracturing—aka, “fracking”—has become a more common way to extract natural gas from underneath the United States, employment in the natural gas industry has expanded dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2008 there was a 62-percent increase in the number of workers employed in the oil and natural gas industries in the United States. During this same period, the number of fatalities in the industries grew by 41 percent.

Public health officials urge USDA to withdraw plan to “modernize” poultry inspection, worker and food safety will suffer
The Obama Administration’s quest to appease business interests’ claims about burdensome and outdated regulations awoke a giant in the form of the civil rights, public health and workers’ safety communities. From the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Council of LaRaza, to the American Public Health Association and Nebraska Appleseed, the feedback is loud and clear: USDA should withdraw the regulatory changes it proposed in January that would shift the responsibility for examining and sorting poultry carcasses with obvious defects from USDA inspectors to the assembly line workers.

Alpha cited for not evacuating mine when belt burned
A year after its buyout of Massey Energy, Alpha Natural Resources has been cited for more than 200 safety violations in a massive federal inspection sweep launched after the company did not evacuate a Wyoming County underground mine when workers encountered thick smoke from a burned conveyor belt. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials accused Alpha of an “unwarrantable failure” to follow federal safety rules in an incident reminiscent of the January 2006 fire that killed two miners at Massey’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine.

Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources introduces mine search-and-rescue dog in Virginia
We’ve all heard of a canary in a coal mine, but what about a Dutch Shepherd? Meet Ginny: the newest member of coal producer Alpha Natural Resources’ search-and-rescue team, trained to perform searches in both underground and surface mines. Equipped with an infrared camera and atmospheric gas detector — along with her extraordinary sense of smell and unmatched agility — the Bristol-based company’s first four-legged employee has been trained since she was three days old to search for missing, trapped, injured or unresponsive humans in unstable conditions or confined areas.

Surgeon General urges oil spill workers to join national health study
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin recently rolled out new TV and radio public service announcements that invite Gulf oil spill cleanup workers and volunteers to participate in the GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study), a national effort to determine whether the oil spill contributed to physical or mental health problems. Launched last February, the GuLF STUDY is the largest health study of its kind ever conducted among cleanup workers and volunteers.

Mapping the glass ceiling
We’ve written before about how the gender pay gap grows with age. Generally speaking, the older a woman is, the wider the gap between what she earns and what her male counterpart earns. Now PayScale, a company that collects data on salaries, has charted exactly where female college graduates hit their pay ceiling, and it looks to be about age 39.

Mother of all wars: the battle to breastfeed in uniform
There’s the war on women, and there’s the war on breastfeeding. Then there’s the war on breastfeeding women warriors. That latter struggle broke out earlier this week, when the interwebs discovered a staged photo of two uniformed female Air Force service members offering up camouflage-clad mammaries for their hungry babes. Now, a viral debate’s busted out over the propriety of Uncle Sam’s finest nursing while dressed for battle.

Nurses, patients voice frustration over avoidable hospital staffing crisis
It’s a universal health care frustration: the emergency room. Endless waits and doctors who treat patients like products on an assembly line. A new study confirms the exasperation: A large portion of patients believe they’re being treated poorly by an overstretched system. In NPR’s informal follow-up Facebook poll, nurses sounded every bit as vexed as the patients: We received hundreds of responses and read them all: piles of stories about nurses feeling overworked, getting no breaks, no lunches and barely enough time to go to the bathroom. Even worse, many nurses say breaks and lunchtimes are figured into their salaries and deducted, whether they take them or not.

Judge rules on SeaWorld case
Following a two-week trial, yesterday, the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission handed down a decision in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s case against SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. The Labor Department’s actions in this case were carried out to achieve a single goal – protecting the workers at SeaWorld and other parks like it. The decision should send a strong message to SeaWorld that the health and safety of its workers must always be a top priority, and that workers who interact with large and unpredictable animals deserve no less protection than anyone else.

The worst jobs for your health? Jamie Dimon has one
Some of Wall Street‘s top executives including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and James Gorman of Morgan Stanley are having a rough few weeks. It may not be surprising then that they both hold one of the worst jobs for your health. Corporate executives have plenty responsibility and pressure to perform, and with that comes long hours and stress. According to a report from health.com that makes the job one of the worst in terms of a healthy lifestyle.

BC chemistry lab evacuated after graduate assistant is exposed to dangerous chemical
A graduate assistant in the Boston College chemistry department is being treated after he came in contact with a dangerous chemical this morning that forced officials to evacuate the building, authorities said. The man was unpacking a box in a chemistry laboratory when he was exposed to a chemical that had spilled in the box.

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