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 email@example.com .
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Karen Kent, the first woman elected as President of UNITE HERE Local 1 in its over 100 year history. We see her working tirelessly day and night for the members and know that she will continue to serve the members in her new role with the same dynamism and energy as she has throughout her career fighting to protect workers and their families.
Ms. Kent started out in hospitality industry over 20 years ago working as a waitress. Later she led a campaign of her fellow hotel workers to unionize in Palo Alto, CA. Since then, Ms. Kent has led successful organizing drives in Las Vegas, New York City, and here in Chicago.
Prior to becoming President, Ms. Kent served as Executive Vice President of UNITE HERE Local 1. Lou Weeks was elected to replace Ms. Kent as Executive VP. We congratulate Mr. Weeks on his new role as well and know that he will do well giving his organizing history and efforts for workers, including living wage campaigns.
Henry Tamarin, who has served as President of UNITE HERE Local 1 since 2001 with unwavering determination and commitment to protect and expand working families rights and benefits had this to say, “In recent years the labor movement has experienced significant challenges and major victories. We need leadership that not only reflects who our union is, but where we are going. It’s time for a new generation to lead Local 1.”
We are thrilled to hear that Karen Kent will be leading the new generation with her formidable skills and determination.
It’s that time of year again, when temperatures head for the 90’s, and safety experts remind us that working in the heat without safeguards can be deadly. And we have already seen some tragedies, like the death of 45-year-old James Baldassare, a Massachusetts letter carrier.
But there’s something new going on in 2013: Low-wage, nonunion service sector workers are standing up and demanding basic protections.
Last week, workers at a New York City McDonald’s walked out when a co-worker was taken to the hospital with heat exhaustion after being ordered back to work by her manager. And in Chicago, workers at a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts also walked off the job to demand safe working conditions in the blistering heat.
Heat safety is not rocket science. What’s needed is simple. Adequate shade for outdoor workers, and cooling or ventilation for those working indoors. Plenty of drinking water for everyone. And rest breaks and medical attention for anyone showing the signs of heat exhaustion or its deadlier version, heat stroke.
Click here for a good refresher course on prevention, symptoms and basic first aid. And click below to find out more about groups of service workers organizing to demand respect, like Fight For 15, Restaurant Opportunities Center and Arise Chicago.
We’d like to share a letter from Ellie Campbell of Rochester, New York to her local newspaper. Her concern is saving New York’s Scaffold Act – but her message also applies to the ever-growing pile of OSHA standards that are stalled in Washington, and attempts to gut workers’ compensation laws in state after state. When employers pay no real price for putting safety last, more and more will wind up doing just that. From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, June 18th (courtesy of Public Citizen):
A construction accident nearly cost my son his life. I always knew that construction work was dangerous, but it wasn’t until my own son was injured that I realized how many serious accidents could have been prevented if contractors simply followed the law and took safety seriously.
My son Brett was working to replace a roof in Rochester when he fell 30 feet onto hard concrete. A harness would have prevented his fall, but he was not given one. He was hospitalized for almost a year and suffered traumatic brain injuries. He is unable to speak and will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Every day, I need to remind him who I am so he doesn’t forget.
Sadly, accidents like Brett’s happen every day. In fact, 101 construction workers died in New York between 2009 and 2011. You would think that would spur stronger worker safety protections. Instead, lobbyists for big businesses are trying to eliminate the laws that we do have to keep workers safe, like the Scaffold Law.
The law requires contractors who control the worksite to provide basic safety equipment to their employees, and holds them financially responsible when they do not. It is a common-sense rule that promotes safety. But contractors want to “reform” the Scaffold Law, so that they can more easily escape the consequences of accidents they should have prevented. If this “reform” is passed, construction companies will be even less likely to keep worksites safe.
No family should ever have to go through what we suffered. We must do everything we can to reduce the number of accidents like Brett’s — starting with keeping the Scaffold Law.
ELLIE CAMPBELL, Rochester NY
Every year, between 5,000 and 6,000 workers test positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood, caused by on-the-job exposure. The latest reports come from California’s state OSHA agency –which also found Hispanic workers to be over-represented among the victims. But across the country, companies continue to ignore basic safety measures to protect workers from poisoning. Consider this recent case:
In January, federal OSHA issued 14 willful and 11 repeat violations to Panthera Painting for exposing its employees to lead. The workers were using abrasive blasting equipment to remove lead paint from bridges over the Pennsylvania Turnpike … The OSHA inspector described how the Panthera crews didn’t have the proper equipment or training to minimize their exposure to lead dust: One worker simply had a shield taped to the front of his hard hat. Another didn’t have new filter cartridges for his respirator, “so he wore the old ones and tied his shirt over his face,” the inspector wrote.
Lead exposure in adults can cause hypertension, serious kidney damage and mental deterioration. If the dust is carried home to young children, the damage can be even worse. Painters and workers who manufacture or store batteries are among the most at risk. But the numbers of workers with lead poisoning is probably underestimated, especially among those who breathe in contaminated fumes. If companies aren’t testing the air, most likely they are not testing workers’ blood levels either.
Workers who are made ill by lead exposure are entitled to compensation under the Illinois Occupational Disease Act. Call Elfenbaum Evers and Amarilio for more information. Thanks to the folks at the Pump Handle Blog for an important update on an old workplace hazard!
No, this is not an occasion brought to you by Wal-Mart’s billionaire owners. On June 7th the champion of Low Wages, Scarce Benefits and No Respect will get a visit at the shareholder’s meeting in Bentonville from Wal-Mart employees who have been on strike for the past two weeks at locations around the country.
Here in Chicago, Jobs with Justice is holding a “People’s Board Meeting” outside the Wal-Mart at 570 West Monroe at 10:00 am. They’ll be joined by members of Warehouse Workers for Justice (employees of the big nonunion Will County warehouses that supply local Wal-Marts and other big-box stores); Fight for 15, the bold new coalition of low-paid retail and service workers; and labor unions like UFCW and Workers United. They’ll deliver petitions in support of the employees’ demands and kick off a movement to support Wal-Mart workers locally.