Most Influential In our Hearts: Despite the global campaign championing Rory O’Neill for the most influential individual in health and safety in Great Britain, odds-on favorite Rory O’Neill fell just short of victory. Although he made it into the top 15 — and was rising fast, according to the polls, he fell just short. Unlike some candidates on this side of the pond, Rory has gallantly conceded to the winner, Dr. Mavis Nye, who “has been described as a ‘tour de force, and an absolute dynamo for Asbestos Awareness’. She lives with Mesothelioma every day of her life, having been diagnosed a few years ago, and spends her life campaigning for asbestos awareness and removal.” So congratulations Mavis. And congratulations Rory for being an inspiration to us all. Better luck next time.
COVID Struck Meatpacking Plants Hard: Despite meatpacking companies insistence that they’ve done a lot during this pandemic to protect their workers, a recent Congressinoal report found that companies pushed back against state and federal recommendations for coronavirus precautions early in the pandemic and “prioritized profits and production over worker safety, continuing to employ practices that led to crowded facilities in which the virus spread easily,” while federal regulators like OSHA failed to enact regulatory standards. “More workers have died from COVID-19 in the last 18 months in the meat and poultry industry, than died from all work-related causes in the industry in the past 15 years,” according to former OSHA official Debbie Berkowitz. “And I bet it’s more than that now that we have better numbers.” This is the first of a 3-part Iowa Public Radio series.
Unions are Good for Democracy: Turns out that unions are not only good for workers, they’re good for communities and for democracy. And what do we need most in this country? More democracy! The Economic Policy Institute released a report last week documenting the correlation between higher levels of unionization in states and a range of economic, personal, and democratic well-being measures. And guess what? “In the same way unions give workers a voice at work, with a direct impact on wages and working conditions, the data suggest that unions also give workers a voice in shaping their communities. Where workers have this power, states have more equitable economic structures, social structures, and democracies.”
Kids, Parents, Schools and COVID: I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have school-age kids over the past couple of years. But Randi Weingarten, President of the powerful American Federation of Teacher has to deal with her members concerns about kids’ education and their own health, while balancing parents’ concerns about the isolation and education problems that remote learning present. It’s not an easy job balancing everyone’s legitimate complaints, but Randi has been traveling the country over the past several months, listening to teachers, parents and activists. The New York Times chronicles her unenviable task.
Neighborhood Safety Prowler: You better watch out, you better not violate…. Turns out I’m the neighborhood safety prowler. I’ve written and tweeted about a few confrontations I’ve had with construction companies on neighborhood jobs who ignore the safety of their workers and violate OSHA trenching, fall protection and silica standards. Wireless Estimator has sent out a warning: “If you’re performing an upgrade or installing 5G small cells in Takoma Park, MD, especially near Westmoreland Ave., double check your JHA to ensure that all of your safety measures are spot on, or you could be spotted by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA Jordan Barab who is on the prowl in his neighborhood for worksite violations.” For those who want to follow in my footsteps, I published a handy “Do It Yourself” guide a couple of years ago.
Amazon — Bad For Safety and Equity: Amazon’s Minnesota warehouses suffer from a high rate of injury and those at its Shakopee facilities experience large pay gaps by race, according to a new report compiled by the National Employment Law Project with assistance from local workers rights group the Awood Center. The report calls for a state investigation of health and safety hazards at the Amazon facilities as well as an examination of the online retail giant’s practices when it comes to how it monitors and pushes employees’ work speeds. Workers at its Shakopee facilities are more than twice as likely to be injured at work as other Minnesota warehouse workers. The report also showed that shows Black workers at Scott County warehouses — most of which are Amazon warehouses — are paid $2,108 a month, 63% of what white workers are paid.