HOW DO YOU REPORT AN INJURY OR ILLNESS WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG?

Good news this week from the Illinois Appellate Court: injured workers still have a few rights that are protected by common law and common sense.   The case concerned a grain-elevator employee who caught a serious lung infection called histoplasmosis after being exposed to bird droppings.

At first the worker, Mark Tolbert, didn’t connect his chest pains, cough and weakness to his job.  His doctor said more tests would have to be run, because the spots on his chest x-ray could be lung cancer.   Tolbert told his boss that he was too sick to work, and the doctor had advised him to avoid dusty environments. (The supervisor claimed Tolbert said he had cancer, but Tolbert denied this.)  It took over a month before the real cause was confirmed.  By that time, the 45-day deadline for reporting a work injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act had expired.  Too late, said the company – and the state Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed, rejecting his claim.

The court overturned this Catch-22 decision, asking how on earth a worker could be asked to report a diagnosis before he (or his doctor) knew about it?   The company had received adequate notice of the injury, they ruled, when Tolbert told them he was too sick to work.  In addition, he had filed his claim promptly after being told he had histoplasmosis probably acquired at work.

Click here for more information on histoplasmosis.  This fungus is common in the Midwest, especially in river valleys.   Construction workers who plow up the earth or demolish old buildings, along with farmers and grain-handling employees, are at higher risk.  So are people whose immune systems are suppressed by certain drugs or chronic conditions.

And remember the main take-home point:  That 45-day deadline for informing your boss about your illness or injury is important!   However, you can still file a claim if it takes you and your doctor longer than that to figure out what’s really wrong.   That goes for physical injuries as well as diseases, which may be covered by the Illinois Occupational Disease Act.

 

Feel free to call Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio at (312) 226-2650 if you’d like more information related to your work injury.

 

SOUTH SIDE STEELWORKERS: THE STRIKE STILL WORKS

Workers at Allied Tube and Conduit voted for a new contract May 5, ending a week-long strike.

A strike, you say?  I thought industrial workers didn’t dare do that anymore!

Well, it’s a hard decision when good jobs are hard to find and the laws seem stacked against the unions.  Still, sometimes the employer leaves you no choice.

According to Steve Kramer, vice-president of Steelworkers Local 9777-18, Allied Tube, which employs 460 union members at its steel tubing mill in south suburban Harvey, wanted to freeze pensions, deprive workers of the ability to choose which jobs they will work, and require 10- to 12-hour workdays.  The workers currently work eight-hour shifts, and the company wanted to be able to change shifts by up to four hours.

After working without a contract for a year, the workers said no deal, and voted overwhelmingly to strike.  Those demands for a hostile takeover of employees’ personal lives were dropped in the new contract, along with the pension cuts.

It wasn’t all bread and roses.  Union members had to accept a hike in their out-of-pocket health care costs and a partial reduction in the number of job descriptions, meaning many will take on extra duties at work.  In return, there were signing bonuses and modest raises.

“There was give and take, but it shows that strategically the strike still works,” Kramer said.

Congratulations to Local 9777 for standing up to overreaching corporate greed, and winning!

We at Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio are proud to represent Local 9777 and their members in labor and workers’ compensation legal issues. Should you have a labor or workers compensation question in Illinois, please do not  hesitate to call us at (312) 226-2650 for a free consultation.

WHERE TO GET A SLICE OF JUSTICE IN CHICAGO

It’s good to get word of business owners – large or small – doing the right thing.  Our friends at Arise Chicago sent us the cheerful news of a pizzeria on the Northwest Side that believes its employees deserve paid sick days.

Dimo’s Pizza, at 1615 N. Damen, also offers workers affordable health insurance.   These are things workers ought to be able to take for granted in the world’s richest country – but too many workers struggle to get by without, especially food-service workers who don’t get a 40-hour work week.  You can order from Dimo’s here.  (An added bonus: knowing the folks who made your pizza didn’t stagger into work in spite of a bad stomach flu.)

Arise Chicago is part of the campaign for an Earned Sick Time Ordinance that would extend this benefit to all Chicago workers.  This community-based Workers Center has helped thousands of low-wage workers recoup back wages, improve workplace safety and enforce their legal rights.   They’ve recently relocated to 1436 W. Randolph Street, close to the Mexican consulate and Ashland Avenue’s Union Row.  Stop by and check them out.

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.

DDS