Northwestern Football Players Can UNIONIZE!!!

The Chicago Tribune reported today that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University football players are employees of the school and are therefore entitled to a union election.

The amount of control the football programs exert over the players played a critical role in the NLRB decision. This is similar to when employers hide behind an “independent contractor” agreement to claim an injured worked is not an employee, just as Northwestern did here with its players. But the control factor is very compelling to find that the person is in fact an employee, as the NLRB properly found here.

This is great news for all college athletes and will have significant ramifications across the country and all of college sports. We look forward to seeing these players get their due.

Should you an independent contractor issue related to your Illinois workers’ compensation work injury claim, please call us at EEA at (312)226-2650.

 

The American Workplace These Days Can Be Too Much To Bear

Here at EE&A we hear a lot of horror stories about on-the-job hazards.  Still, every once in awhile we come across one that blows even our minds.  Take this story of an OSHA fine against the Cherokee Bear Zoo in North Carolina:

According to the Asheville Citizen, “Employees were ‘exposed to potential attacks from captive bears’ in July and August while cleaning enclosures, hand feeding the animals and attempting to assist the mating process, according to the citations issued to the zoo.”

Mind-blowing fact #1:  For exposing workers to the risk of grizzly bear attacks, the zoo was fined $3,120.   That oughta learn’em …

Mind-blowing fact #2:  To get OSHA to look into this, it took a complaint (backed by video) from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)!  In other words, from someone who was watching out for the welfare of … the bears.

That’s a worthy cause, as it looks like these animals were not being treated humanely.  But what about the people?  Not one employee was even interviewed for the news story, apparently.

Mind-blowing fact #3, would even be asking workers to “assist the mating process.”  If forced to encounter a grizzly bear at all, I can only imagine most people’s preference would to sure as heck not let it be a grizzly bear in heat.

Call EE&A at (312) 226-2650 if your workplace is getting to be a bit too much to bear.  We’re here to help.

Illinois Ranks 3rd Nationwide in New Business Establishments

A recent study shows Illinois is in the top 5 nationally for job creation in the last 4 years. You heard that correctly.

TOP 5! And Number 1 for private sector job growth in the Midwest. NUMBER 1.

For all the end of times rhetoric coming from the far right you would think that Illinois was bound for the tomb. However, only Texas and New York, respectively, have created more private sector jobs than Illinois between 2009 and 2012.

Remember these facts the next time some tea party politician tries to get you to drink their (artificially) sweet tea.

 

Northwestern Athletes demand union representation!

ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ reported that for the first time in college sports history, athletes are demanding representation by a labor union. And it’s about time.

Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict’s book ‘The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big Time College Football’ discussed many issues around the college football system, including the exploitation of players. With this exploitation being in the media recently, athletes are demanding representation.

We at Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio, P.C. fully support the NCAA athletes right to organize.

While coaches get multi-million dollar contracts and colleges build palatial stadiums, the athletes are chewed up and spit out. Why? Because there is never ending supply of willing high school athletes ready to line up for the same treatment in the hopes of a professional payday. Unfortunately, the dream of the professional payday proves elusive except for the lucky (very very) few. And of those athletes who do make it pro, very few are able play more than a few years in the show.

Without representation, the cycle will only continue. It’s time to break it and help these kids prepare for a better future. That’s what college is for, right?

WORKERS’ RIGHT TO KNOW: A Matter of Life and Death

The scariest thing about the chemical spill in West Virginia this month was not the leaky storage tanks that had not been inspected in twenty years – or the spectacle of nine counties without safe water to drink, cook, bathe or do the washing.  Although that was scary enough.

The scariest thing was what we didn’t know about the chemicals being stored within a stone’s throw of the greater Charleston water supply.  The company that makes “”MCHM” (methylcyclohexanemethanol) had no clue about its long-term health effects.  Neither did Freedom Industries, which owned the tanks.

A few days ago West Virginians were informed that the spill contained a second chemical  called PPH, the exact nature of which is “proprietary” according to Freedom Industries.  Which, by the way, is filing for bankruptcy, leaving anyone who may have been harmed, well … high and dry.

As workplace safety activists at the Pump Handle blog point out,

“There’s no law that even expects them to know, and there’s no law requiring them to find out. For now, we are resigned to live in a giant black hole, with far too little health information about the 80,000 chemicals that are manufactured or processed in the U.S.”

The people of Charleston deserve better.  So do the workers at Freedom Industries, not to mention the coal mine, railroad and utility workers who handle this chemical used to “wash” coal.  We all deserve better.

For now, your best defense is to at least know everything your employer knows about the chemicals used in your workplace.   You or your union can do this by demanding a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet on each chemical.   Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio stands ready to help you do this – and, if needed, to fight for medical care and compensation for any harm you may suffer from workplace chemicals.

THIS THANKSGIVING, LOW WAGE WORKERS ARE ALREADY FED UP

Workers in fast food, big-box retail and service jobs are already struggling to get by on poverty wages.  This holiday season, however, they’re really getting the Scrooge treatment from their employers:

A growing list of retailers plan to open on Thanksgiving – meaning employees don’t get one.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is offering its workers “McAdvice” on how to feed the family (apply for food stamps, cut your dinner into pieces so it looks bigger) how to balance the holiday budget (sell your Christmas presents on EBay), and how to deal with stress (just stop complaining!). Your Big Mac would only cost $.68 more to pay every McDonald’s worker a living wage. That being said, we are not advocating eating at McDonald’s for any reason.

And a Wal-Mart in Ohio set up a collection table where employees could donate canned food to some very needy families: Their own coworkers. Stephen Colbert promptly lampooned Wal-Mart for their union-busting and steadfast refusal to pay a living wage to their employees resulting in their employees begging for food from their co-workers.

Groups like Fight for 15, Our Wal-Mart and Low Pay is Not OK are organizing low-wage workers to fight back.   To find out about Black Friday protests in your area and how you can help, go to http://blackfridayprotest.org .   Or contact Ada Fuentes at Chicago Jobs with Justice: (773) 575-7787 or adaf@jwj.org .

The same companies at the forefront of denying workers dignity in their wages and benefits are the same that fight to cut workers compensation benefits here in Illinois. All while they collect record profits year after year. The recession is over for Corporate America, just not everyone else. Here at Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio, we will continue to fight. Call us at 312-226-2650 if you need someone to fight on your behalf.

Chicago’s Gas Workers Union Supports Veterans – Where It Counts

We’re proud to pass along this clip from the Veterans’ Day edition of CBS’ Today Show.  It describes a landmark program, right here in Chicago, that is training Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans for skilled jobs with People’s Gas.

What CBS forgot to mention was who came up with the idea, sold the gas company on it, and made sure it became a success.  That would be Rick Passarelli, the business manager of Gas Workers Local 18007.

A Navy veteran himself, Rick knew that vets had skills and dedication to offer, but that the transition to civilian life is not always easy – and it’s  been particularly hard for today’s vets.  They have borne the brunt of two prolonged and unpopular wars, often enduring multiple combat deployments, only to be discharged into the toughest civilian economy in a generation.

Thanks to Rick’s hard work, and the support of the entire Local, dozens of these men and women now have a leg up on a skilled career and a secure future.   If you’re a veteran and are interested in the program, go to www.power4america.org for details on how to apply.

Congratulations, Rick!  Our hats are off to you and the Local 18007 membership.

Freakonomics Tackle Carpal Tunnel Syndrome…at their own risk

Freakonomics radio produced a podcast called “Whatever Happened to the Carpal Tunnel Epidemic?” The story focused on the increase of carpal tunnel cases in the 80’s and 90’s, and the subsequent decrease in reported cases. Did Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) really disappear?

Many of the reported cases, and cases that made the news, during that time period were related to keyboard usage. With the increase in CTS, products were developed to alleviate CTS symptoms such as ergonomic keyboards. As the products were developed to help alleviate CTS symptoms, the number of reported cases went down.

Despite these work place modifications, CTS is alive and well, but not so much in the office jobs involving keyboards. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is highly prevalent in labor jobs involving forceful and/or repetitive use of the hands. However, since these types of jobs are not reported as frequently in the news, CTS has seemingly disappeared from reports in workers’ compensation claims, according to Freakonomics.

We in Illinois have seen the ravages of journalists reporting on CTS. We now have a statute that singles out individuals suffering from CTS and specifically limits their recovery, even if you lose your occupation and can never return to work.

Freakonomics points out that overall, between 1-2% of American workers today suffer from CTS. Laborers have a higher risk for developing CTS and other issues like tendonitis or epicondylitis. For example, 5-8% of construction workers have CTS, and up to 20% of manufacturing and food processing workers have CTS. These are some of the highest rates of occurrences.

Slaughterhouses, meat packing plants, and dairy workers also have high exposures of CTS. All of these jobs require repetitive hand work requiring movements such as grabbing, moving, twisting, and packing throughout the day. For these workers, permanent restrictions may me that they lose their livelihood, and the new Illinois Workers Compensation statute says that only entitles them to an  30% loss to the hand suffering from CTS. See 820 ILCS 305/8e. Horrifying.

CTS is clearly still occurring regularly in the labor workplace, and worker’s compensation benefits are available to those who have developed CTS from their job duties. If you have Carpal Tunnel and you think it is from your job duties, please call Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio PC for a free consultation.

WE STILL HAVE A DREAM – A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL

On August 29, fast food workers in Chicago and around the country will join in a one-day strike for living wages.  This one has the full backing of the AFL-CIO as well as the union-supported Fight for 15 movement.  It’s about time.

The strike will come just days after the 50th anniversary of the great 1963 civil-rights March on Washington headed by Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.    Hundreds of thousands of workers, students and community activists will march in remembrance on August 24, 2013, and raise many of the same demands.

Union members of all races joined in the 1963 march.  Bayard Rustin of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was a key organizer and leader, and industrial unions like the United Auto Workers played a big role.   One of their demands was “a decent standard of living for all Americans”, including a hike in the minimum wage.   They knew the right to sit down at a lunch counter didn’t mean a whole lot if you lacked the price of a hamburger.

The marchers in 1963 called for a minimum wage of $2 an hour.   That would be $15.26 per hour in 2013 dollars.   Fifty years later, a growing number of working Americans struggle to make ends meet in part time jobs making far less – what one reporter called “zombie jobs” that have replaced the full-time jobs wiped out in the Great Recession.

The fast food workers’ fight is a fight for all of us.   Check their website, http://lowpayisnotOK.org , to find out how you can support them on August 29.

FIRED FOR TALKING TO OSHA?

That’s what apparently happened to three workers at Mobile Rail Solutions, a contractor that cleans and services locomotives for the Union Pacific and other giant railroads.   Workers found themselves climbing towers, loading trucks with sand and dumping toilets without proper safety equipment.  When they called in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) they were suddenly “let go due to lack of work” – only to find their jobs posted on Craigslist days later.

So they and other Mobile Rail workers talked to the union – the IWW, to be exact.   Since July 31 they have been on strike, and next week they will officially vote on making the IWW their bargaining agent.

You can show your support this Saturday, August 10 from 3 to 6 pm, at a rally and picket line in front of the Union Pacific terminal at 1425 S. Western.   Donations to the strike fund and messages of support are welcome too!  You can get more information here.

We also want to remind everyone:  it’s illegal for an employer to fire you for filing an OSHA complaint, filing a workers’ compensation claim or getting hurt on the job.    And if you are unable to work because of a workplace injury, you are entitled to medical care and benefits under workers comp – even if your boss has “fired” you.

Call EE&A at (312) 226-2650 for more information on protecting your rights.  And remember what the Mobile Rail workers have learned:  the best defense is a strong union!

DDS