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Corporate Math: How Many Workers is One CEO Worth?

About 1,000, according to pharmaceutical conglomerate McKesson Corp., that is.

In March, McKesson announced it would be dismissing 1,600 U.S. workers in a decision expected to cost the company nearly $300 million, mostly consisting of severance payments. Who is one person they will be keeping around? CEO John Hammergren, a man with a salary of over $130 million and a projected 5-year compensation of $280 million. If he were to be terminated, Hammergren’s single severance package would total to $187 million, valuing his departure to that of about 1,000 employee jobsmckesson.

The CEO’s severance includes a $114 million pension, life security, cash bonuses, life-long financial counseling, and more. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union to which McKesson employees are member to, is far from pleased by this “golden-parachute ratio,” as coined by Bloomberg.

In fact, Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of Teamsters has gone as far as to comment that this ratio is “yet further evidence that McKesson is being run first and foremost for Hammergren, with shareholders, employees and customers left far behind.” The emotional and financial impact of 1,000 workers and their families losing income sources cannot be solely reduced to a dollar value.

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Postal Workers Give New Union Contract Their Stamp of Approval

Over 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees began the week of July 11, 2016 in good spirits, as the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) just concluded negotiation on a two-year contract. Their workers can expect pay raises, continued COLAs, and job security among other fortified benefits.
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Career employees are locked in to receive an overall 3.8% raise given in three installments by 2018. Their current COLA agreement will also remain. As for postal support employees, they will receive larger raises, approximately 5% in total at the same schedule as career employees, due to the fact that COLAs do not apply to them. Additionally, support employees will be given $0.50 hourly wage raises in 3 installments by 2018.

The new contract also included no lay-off provisions, prevention of subcontracting USPS driving work, as well as promises to not consolidate or close any plants prior to April 2017.

Maintenance and motor vehicle support employees were converted to career employee status. The only caveat that APWU was not able to negotiate around was an increase in payment of health insurance premiums by employees.

We at Elfenbaum, Evers & Amarilio support workers’ unions and their continuous fight for employee rights.

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Trump Taj Mahal Casino Strikers Persevere Onward

Nearly 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, serves, and bellmen from the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City went on strike on July 1, 2016 just before one of the busiest weekends of the year for the company. Though the popular casino bears presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s name, it no longer has any affiliation with the tycoon. Instead, it is owned by magnate Carl Icahn, a businessman with a net worth surpassing 20 billion dollars.

And what are his employees asking for? A living wage.

The strikers, all members of Unite Here Local 54, are battling for decent pay, fair labor, and reasonable healthcare benefits. Upon his takeover of the Taj, Icahn extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the company to drive it to the point of bankruptcy, stripping workers of health benefits and financial security in the process.

The facts? trump taj mahal strike

Half of the workers at Trump Taj Mahal rely on government subsidized healthcare like Medicare, Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. One third have no insurance at all.

Meanwhile, workers at other casinos in the area, also owned by Icahn, have settled contracts with full health benefits. Taj workers are being told to accept a deal that provides them with only part of the insurance extended to other casino workers by Monday, July 18th or lose it entirely.

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg. Costs of living in Atlantic City have increased nearly 25% in the last 10-15 years, while workers have only seen up to $0.80 in raises over that time. The average employee pay stands at $12/hr.

While workloads continue to build for dedicated employees who have stuck by the Taj during its financial troubles, pay remains at standstill, benefits plummet, and employee concerns for their futures and families only climb higher and higher.

As Noelle DiSomma, a protesting employee of Taj puts it, “Whereas these jobs were middle-class, now they’re the working poor.”

At EEA, we fight for workers’ rights.

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Workers’ Comp 101: Do “mental injuries” count?

The short answer to this question? It depends.

Mental or psychological injuries can definitely be job-related, and can be just as disabling as a broken leg or torn tendon. However, not all mental injuries are covered – and proving your case can be challenging. mental injury

Benefits are most commonly awarded for two types of mental injuries:

1) Sudden, intense psychological stress due to a traumatic event: Examples would include being the victim of a robbery at work, being assaulted or threatened by a customer, or witnessing an accident where someone else is killed or seriously injured. The incident must be something that would shock or upset the average person, and must be over and above the “normal” or expected stresses of your job. Threats or harassment from coworkers may count, but only if they’re related to the job rather than a personal conflict.

2) Psychological stress caused by a physical injury: Chronic pain and physical disability can lead to depression, anxiety and other problems. So can the stresses of losing a job that provided income and a sense of self-worth. If a mental health professional clearly links your problem to your work injury, you are entitled to benefits and medical treatment just as you would be for physical symptoms.

Physical symptoms caused by severe psychological stress can also be compensable, if there is a clear connection. However, mental problems related to “routine” job stressors such as a heavy workload or a demanding boss are not considered compensable in Illinois.

In the end, these types of claims are very fact-specific. So call EE&A for a free consultation if you have questions about your case!

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Workers Comp 101: The facts about drug testing

If you suffer an injury at work, you are more likely than ever to be tested for drugs and alcohol. (Some of our clients tell us they were forced to pee in a cup even before being offered first aid!) Recent changes to Illinois workers’ comp laws have made it easier for employers to use drug tests to challenge claims.

This does NOT mean that a positive test kills your right to care and compensation! It does mean that you need to know your rights. drugtest

A few tips:

1. Don’t refuse a drug test. Current law allows your refusal to take the test to be used as proof of “intoxication.”
2. Remember: “illegal drugs” includes any drug that you don’t have a doctor’s prescription to take – including legal narcotic painkillers, sleep aids or stimulants. Borrowing meds from family and friends can be risky in more ways than one.
3. Do make a list of any drugs you took in the past few days. A wide variety of medicines (and even foods) can produce “false positives” on a urine drug screen, including the ones listed here.
4. Do get an attorney at once if you get a positive test! Even if the employer fires you, you may still have the right to medical care and compensation – but you will need expert advice.
In general, you can’t be denied benefits in Illinois unless your alcohol or drug use was the “proximate cause” of your accident. (It doesn’t have to be the only cause, but your boss must be able to make a case that the accident likely would not have happened if you hadn’t been under the influence.) They can also deny benefits if they can show you were so intoxicated that you were “outside the scope of your employment” – essentially playing hookey while still on the job.

Call EE&A at (312) 226-2650 for a free consultation and advice on defending your rights.

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Verizon Strikers Appeal for Solidarity Nationwide

We’d like to pass along a bulletin we got this morning from the Working Families Party, on behalf of 40,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast who walked out on strike this morning. Please see below:

40,000 Verizon workers just went on strike this morning. Verizon strikers

From Massachusetts to Virginia, this will be the largest workers’ strike in recent years. And if they’re going to win a fair contract, they’re going to need you standing with them in solidarity.

On Monday night, Bernie Sanders visited Verizon workers in Buffalo, New York and pledged his support and solidarity for the strike. Will you? Join us and Bernie to support the Verizon strike by signing our solidarity petition. Click here.

Why the strike? Because Verizon workers have been trying for 10 months to win a fair contract from their CEO. Verizon made $1.8 billion in profits just since January 1st, but instead of providing benefits to their hardworking employees, they want to cut job security, outsource positions overseas and keep wages stagnant.

10 months is a long time for talking. Now it’s time to picket!
We can win, but only by standing together.

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Not An Accident

Celeste Monforton and her team at the Pump Handle Blog have been running a series of articles on workplace deaths. It makes for grim reading. But perhaps the most important thing is the title:

“NOT AN ACCIDENT.”

“An ‘accident’ suggests the circumstances were unforeseen or could not have been avoided,” they explain. That’s not the case with too many workplace fatalities that could have been avoided by purchasing or fixing a few simple pieces of equipment – or slowing down the rush for production for five or ten minutes.

Two of the latest tragedies in this series: In September 2015, Terry Leon Lakey, 51, was crushed to death by a hydraulic aerial lift he was servicing. His employer, Terex Services of Waco, Texas, was cited for three serious violations by OSHA for their ineffective lockout/tagout policies. The fine? A whopping $21,000. Not an accident

And just last week, Robert Derkacs, 45, and Joseph Donahue, 25, were killed at a construction site in Hanover, New Jersey. The township’s mayor told reporters that “a 10,000-pound generator was being hoisted by a crane, when a strap gave way.” Or it could have been two straps, according to CBS. Of the five construction contractors on the site, at least three have been cited for serious safety violations since 2010. The top fine was $2,625.00.

Our thanks to Dr. Monforton and the Pump Handle team for telling it like it is. We’d just add that there’s one other excuse companies should not be allowed to make: “It Was The Contractor’s Fault.” General contractors are responsible for work injuries to their own employees, no matter whose equipment or staff were responsible. And companies who employ subcontractors without workers’ comp coverage can be held responsible for those employees, too.

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Who Can Peoples Gas Customers Count On? The Union Workforce.

18007 blue“Peoples Gas’ union is declaring war on the utility’s new owner,” according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Well, we’ve known Utility Workers Local 18007 for a long time, and can assure you they are nice, hard-working, peace-loving people. They’re just standing up for their own jobs – and the interests of ratepayers too.

At the heart of this mess is Peoples Gas’ attempts to use contractors to perform work traditionally done by its permanent workforce. That’s a bad deal for consumers as well as gas workers, as mounting cost overruns show. It’s also a bad deal for safety. Chicago needs a skilled, stable gas workforce with the experience to keep the system running without outages – or explosions. This is not the place to impose a “gig economy” of workers who are here today, gone tomorrow.

Peoples Gas is now four years into a massive, government-mandated program to replace its antiquated infrastructure. When we say “antiquated,” we’re talking cast-iron pipes that date back to the 1850’s in some cases.

From an initial estimate of about $2.2 billion, the price tag quickly ballooned to over $4 billion. Last year, when Peoples Gas was sold yet again, Integrys executives told the Illinois Commerce Commission they weren’t sure what the final cost would be. Now the ICC is investigating charges that they had an estimate all along that they hid from regulators: $8 billion. They’re also looking into allegations of a “revolving door system” between top gas company management and the big construction firms getting those profitable contracts.

Local 18007 is calling for expanding the permanent workforce to 1,300 (a 30% hike from current levels, but still slightly below 2000 levels). They want to keep expanding the union-led training program that is preparing Iraq-era vets for skilled jobs with Peoples Gas. And they want to keep senior workers on the job, mentoring and supervising younger workers in the field.

If that’s “declaring war”, EE&A is ready to enlist.

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Illinois Trial Lawyers’ President Perry Browder Issues a Statement Regarding Gov. Rauner

Statement from Illinois Trial Lawyers President Perry Browder
February 17, 2016

Across Illinois, seniors, individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable citizens are going without vital services because Gov. Rauner is holding the budget hostage until he succeeds in upending our workers’ compensation and legal systems. However, his proposals would do nothing to improve the state’s financial standing or fund the state services necessary to support individuals in need of critical assistance.

In his budget address today, Gov. Rauner continues to demand that lawmakers roll back the financial safeguards that our state’s workers’ compensation and tort systems afford to Illinoisans.

To maximize insurance industry profits, the governor has renewed his crusade to undercut the rights of injured workers. He and his political allies willfully ignore the fact that the 2011 rewrite of the workers’ compensation system – those changes sought by the business community, and which were largely to the detriment of men and women injured on the job – is producing the desired result: lower costs for insurance companies and employers.

As the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission stated in its FY 2014 report, Illinois employers experienced the largest decrease in workers’ comp premiums among all 50 states. And the commission anticipates further savings once the full effects of the 2011 workers’ comp overhaul are felt.

The governor would like to see Illinois emulate states like Texas and Massachusetts. However, following the lead of those two states would come at a great cost to taxpayers. Texas has fewer regulations, lower wages and a weaker safety net – resulting in a shrinking middle class. The poverty rate in Texas is nearly five percent higher than Illinois.

In Massachusetts, doctors who care for those injured on the job are the lowest paid in the nation, which raises concerns about access to quality care. If Illinois further reduces the rate doctors are compensated to treat injured workers to match Massachusetts’ levels, a patient’s choice of physicians will be seriously limited and wait times for treatment are sure to rise significantly.

No matter how many benefits are cut, medical reimbursements are lowered, and claims are denied, the state’s businesses won’t see additional savings without our leaders addressing the promises previously broken by the insurance industry. Strictly regulating insurance premiums, not further curtailing injured workers’ rights, is the key to managing employers’ workers’ compensation costs.

The governor also wants to erode the constitutional rights of citizens to access the courts that their tax dollars fund – helping shield the profits of his big business allies at the expense of those who suffer due to their malfeasance.
The fact is that very few injured Americans ever file lawsuits. In Illinois, the number of civil cases filed has dropped 33 percent from 2010 to 2014. More than 60 percent of court actions are initiated by businesses suing other businesses or individuals for money, but the governor has not proposed limiting the access of corporations, banks and investment companies to the court system.

Gov. Rauner needs to focus on real, meaningful solutions to fix our state’s problems. The state budget cannot be balanced on the backs of those injured due to no fault of their own.

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What’s Happening at Asarco/Grupo Mexico

Over 2,000 workers at Asarco/Grupo Mexico facilities in Arizona and Texas have been fighting for a fair contract for more than two years. The company’s response has been to retaliate against workers, threaten them and refuse meetings.asarco_petition

Grupo Mexico is one of the wealthiest companies in Mexico with a reputation for abusing workers and harming communities. On Dec. 1, 2015, they began making a number of unlawful changes to Asarco workers’ hours, benefits and compensation. Their greed is bad for workers, their families and communities.

These workers haven’t had a raise in seven years, yet they continue to work hard every day to make Asarco a leading copper company. They deserve a fair contract that includes good wages and benefits for active workers and continued, reliable healthcare for retirees.

At EEA, we fight for workers’ rights. If you want to show your support for Asarco/Grupo workers, sign this petition to Asarco/Grupo Mexico management.

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