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#DenyNAI: New Legislation To Stop Norwegian Air International From Undercutting Labor Laws

Image by Viaggio Routard FLIKR CC

Image by Viaggio Routard FLIKR CC

Congressional Representatives From Both Sides Of The Aisle, Introduce Legislation To Deny NAI’s Application To The DOT.

Today, Congress took a big step forward in protecting American workers and upholding our nations trade agreements, by introducing legislation to stop Norwegian Air International (NAI) from skirting international labor laws as they attempt to expand in the U.S.

NAI, is based in Norway, but the airline is incorporated in Ireland. This is called a “flag of convenience.” It allows NAI to avoid paying taxes in their home country and allows them to avoid strong labor laws in U.S – European Air Transport agreement.

“Norwegian Air International (NAI) and its attempt to launch a flag-of-convenience airline has once again drawn a strong bipartisan rebuke from lawmakers who have long held that our government should not give operating authority to foreign airlines that violate our trade rules and threaten U.S. airline jobs,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).

“Norwegian Air International specifically set up operations in Ireland to avoid labor laws in Norway—a flagrant violation of the labor provisions in the agreement. We implore swift action by all lawmakers to get this legislation adopted in order to uphold labor protections in trade deals, protect good aviation jobs, and ensure the safest aviation system in the world,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).

“As the Norwegian Air saga continues to rear its ugly head, we are grateful to the members of Congress who stand up against this bogus proposal with commonsense legislation that protects good jobs and fair competition. This bill would fight the Department of Transportation’s effort to allow airlines to flout labor standards in order to pad their bottom lines. It sends a message to any company looking to operate in the United States: if you don’t care about working people, you aren’t welcome here,” wrote the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

In order for NAI to expand operations in the U.S. they would first need DOT approval. On April 15, the DOT tentatively approved NAI’s application.

“The Machinists Union applauds Congress for acting to stop the Department of Transportation’s ill-conceived decision to pave the way for NAI’s entry into the US aviation market. Any airline that registers its aircraft in foreign countries with lax safety and security standards and ‘rents’ its cabin crews from countries with no labor laws to lower costs shouldn’t be welcome in the United States,” said IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja.

“Make no mistake: NAI’s scheme to gain entry into the US aviation market will unleash downward pressure on the wages, benefits and working conditions of airline workers here in the United States and cause airline workers to lose their jobs. That is unacceptable,” added Pantoja.

“NAI is a model for corporate practices that depress wages and diminish collective bargaining rights. It will contract—or more accurately ‘rent’— its flight crews through a recruitment firm based in Asia, which operates according to inferior labor laws. In doing so, NAI will be able to abuse weak labor protections to undercut U.S. airlines and their employees with significantly lower compensation and benefits,” added TWU.

Today, Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) introduced the bill, HR 5090, to deny NAI’s application.

Watch Rep DeFaszio on why we should Deny NAI’s application.

Congressman Larson said that allowing NAI to violate international labor laws would “reward countries that break their commitments to protecting workers.”

“My colleagues and I have been clear with DOT that strong labor standards must factor into NAI’s air carrier permit decision. Today, we are introducing legislation that would prohibit DOT from issuing a permit to NAI if doing so would undermine labor standards,” Congressman Larsen said. “Granting an air carrier permit to NAI would say to the world that the U.S. rewards other countries that break their commitments to protecting workers. Our agreements with other countries are only as strong as our ability and willingness to enforce them, which is why I am pushing hard for the U.S. to hold other countries accountable for their end of the deal.”

After the bill was introduced, leaders from the major aviation unions praised their swift action in stopping NAI’s application.

“ALPA commends Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) for standing up for U.S. airline workers and introducing bipartisan legislation that will prevent Norwegian Air International from serving the United States with a business plan that is designed to undermine labor standards and the intent of one of this country’s international trade agreements,” said Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president.

“We applaud the immediate action of Representatives Peter DeFazio, Frank LoBiondo, Rick Larsen, Lynn Westmoreland to stop this downward spiral on U.S. aviation and good jobs,” added Nelson.

“This legislation is a timely response to the DOT’s April 15 Show Cause Order that moves NAI closer to gaining access to U.S. markets. We criticized that decision because we know that NAI’s business model blatantly violates the labor provisions negotiated into the U.S.-EU aviation trade accord. Inexplicably, the DOT ignored the strict international labor standards it negotiated into U.S.-EU agreement and now faces a final decision on whether it will enforce the labor article or greenlight this low-road air carrier whose operating plan will destroy fair competition and extinguish middle-class airline jobs here and in Europe,” added Wytkind.

“The legislation introduced today requires our government to fully enforce the labor protections in aviation trade agreements it negotiates, and makes it clear that a decision by DOT to permit NAI to launch air service to U.S. markets will not stand. We urge the DOT to reassess the compelling facts in this case, reverse course and deny NAI’s application,” Wytkind concluded.

LiUNA Members Volunteer In Ecuador Relief Effort

LIUNA BannerLIUNA Joins Ecuador Relief Efforts with Volunteer Team and Donations 

Washington, D.C.  – LIUNA Local Unions in the United States and Canada are working to collect donations and support relief efforts in Ecuador following the devastating earthquakes, which left hundreds dead and thousands missing.  A disaster relief team of twenty LIUNA Local 78 members and a six-person technical assessment team from Local 79 are now in Ecuador assisting in assessment, clean up, and recovery efforts. LIUNA Locals 78 and 79,  which represent construction workers in New York with specialized training in structural assessments, demolition and hazardous materials remediation, are providing skilled assistance on the ground in Ecuador removing debris, remediating dangerous substances, searching for survivors, and setting up temporary housing. The Ontario Provincial District Council and LIUNA Local 183, based in Toronto, Canada, are making financial donations to the relief effort and Local 183 is sponsoring an event to collect donations for victims in Ecuador this Sunday afternoon.

LiUNA Members travel to ecuador“On behalf of the half-million men and women of LIUNA and our entire General Executive Board, I want to express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims in Ecuador. We hope that our volunteer team and donations can bring some measure of relief to the survivors,” said LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan.  

The blue LIUNA flag with our seal inscribed with “Justice, Honor, and Strength” (pictured right) is now proudly being flown in Ecuador as LIUNA volunteers work tirelessly to help restore communities affected by the disaster.

LIUNA Local 78 is serving as a hub for the collection of donations of food, water, tents, and toiletries for survivors. Donations are being accepted at the Local 78 office which is located at 11-17 43rd Avenue in Long Island City, NY 11101, Monday through Friday from 7 am to 9 pm.  In addition, to the volunteer team’s efforts and contributions being collected at the Local, members of Local 78 have also pledged a donation of $23,000 to the relief fund. 

LIUNA Local 79, which has partnered with disaster-response agency, HEART 9/11, is working with local government officials in Ecuador and private sector firms to assess needs and will be returning with a larger team to assist in rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the earthquakes.  Local 79 has a track record of providing skilled assistance during disasters; making three separate trips to assist the people of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake which devastated the country in 2010.

Both the Ontario Provincial District Council and LIUNA Local 183 will be making a contribution to relief efforts. In addition, Local 183 will be hosting an event to collect donations for victims of the disaster in Ecuador on Sunday, May 1, from noon to 10 p.m., at LIUNA Local 183, 1263 Wilson Ave., Gerry Gallagher Hall.  The event titled, Toronto Gets Moving for Ecuador, will feature various artistic acts, including the Cuban pianist Hilario Duran and the Nicaraguan stand-up comic Martha Chaves from the Yuk Yuk’s roster, along with dozens of singers and dancers.

LIUNA was proudly founded by immigrants in 1903 and continues to this day to represent members of many different ethnicities; including many thousands of members of Ecuadorian descent.

“Our union is, and always has been, and always will be, a family. The generosity and support from Ray Pocino, LIUNA Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager, Joe Mancinelli, LIUNA Vice President and Central/Eastern Canada Regional Manager, Edison Severino, Business Manager of Local 78, Mike Prohaska, Business Manager of Local 79, Jack Oliveira, Business Manager of the Ontario Provincial District Council, and the disaster relief teams, should be commended,” said O’Sullivan. 

Terry O’Sullivan: The Cost of Going to Work Should Never Be Death or Injury

(Terry O'Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America - LiUNA)

(Terry O’Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America – LiUNA)

As the April 28th Workers Memorial Day commemoration approaches, we can proudly highlight what we can accomplish when we have the best training programs and the right safety regulations in place.

Nationwide, workplace deaths and injuries have trended dramatically downward. For example, in 1970, 38 workers died from workplace-related causes each day. In 2014, the most recent statistic available, that number fell to 13. Workplace-related illnesses and injuries have fallen as well, from 10.9 incidents for every 100 workers to 3.2 incidents per 100 workers.

It’s good news, but not good enough. Despite our progress, the fact remains that 750 workers are expected to lose their lives this year on construction jobsites. Injuries resulting in lost work time are expected to number 75,000.

Let’s honor the brothers and sisters we have lost by commemorating Workers Memorial Day and saying loudly and clearly that the cost of going to work each day should never be death or injury on the job. I invite every LIUNA member to help send this message by joining a week-long conversation about safety for workers on LIUNA’s Facebook page starting on April 25.

As union workers, we know that with the proper safety training, effective temp-post-imagesafety programs on jobsites and a workforce free to speak out about hazards, most deaths and injuries are preventable. That’s why we make training and safety programs a cornerstone of union construction sites. In fact, according to a University of Michigan study, states with high union membership have construction fatality rates 50 percent lower than states with low union membership.

We still have work to do to reduce risks ranging from traffic hazards in highway work zones, to the lack of fall prevention on building construction sites, to inadequate safety equipment to prevent illnesses that are all too common in our industry.

As we approach Workers Memorial Day, let’s build on our accomplishments and fight for safe jobs so that every worker returns safely home at the end of a workday.

Learn more at www.liuna.org/tmo

AFLCIO Announces Support Of BCTGM Boycott Of Mexican-Made Nabisco Products

Campaign encourages Americans to “Check the Label” in support of American jobs by purchasing only those Nabisco products made in America

 SocialMedia_BoycottSimpleKENSINGTON, Md., April 27, 2016 – Today, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) – which represents nearly 4,000 members at Mondelēz International, maker of Nabisco snack products – announced that the national AFL-CIO has officially endorsed its nationwide consumer boycott of Nabisco snack products made in Mexico.

The “Check the Label” campaign was launched to stop Nabisco/Mondelēz from continuing to outsource jobs, by urging American consumers to reject Mexican-made Nabisco products and, instead, buy those that are produced in America in support of middle-class American jobs.

The AFL-CIO’s endorsement is a watershed moment in BCTGM’s boycott movement, as it adds 12.5 million members in 56 affiliated national and international unions, as well as their families and their local and extended communities across the United States and the globe.

BCTGM International President David B. Durkee, stated, “BCTGM is proud to have the support of our 12.5 million Brothers and Sisters of the AFL-CIO who share our profound dismay that Nabisco/Mondelēz is asking American workers to give up 60 percent of their wages and benefits – amounting to $46 million per year in perpetuity – or have their jobs shipped to Mexico. The AFL-CIO’s backing sends the strongest signal yet that American workers and consumers will not stand idly by while Americans lose their jobs.  Most immediately, we believe that the endorsement lends substantial and sustainable support to our “Check the Label” campaign, aimed at supporting American jobs by ensuring consumers’ favorite Nabisco products are produced in America before purchasing.”

SocialMedia_3StepsBCTGM launched the “Check the Label” campaign after Nabisco/Mondelēz closed numerous U.S. production facilities, costing many hundreds of American jobs, while at the same time expanding production in its facilities in Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, where pay is so low that the minimum wage is measured by the day, not the hour. BCTGM is sending teams of the laid-off workers around the country, focusing on large urban areas, to enhance support for the boycott and continue to expand its coalition.

The National contract between Mondelēz International and more than 2,000 of its 4,000 workers represented by the BCTGM, expired on February 29, 2016. BCTGM continues to be resolute in its commitment to securing a quality contract for its members – one that is in the very best interests of all members and their families today and into the future.

The full text of the AFL-CIO endorsement includes the following:

The AFL-CIO has approved your request to include Mondelēz International on the list of AFL-CIO national boycotts. Specifically, the boycott will apply to all Mondelēz International snack food products that are labeled “Made in Mexico,” including Oreos, Newtons, Chips Ahoy, Honey Grahams, Animal Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Premium, Belvita, Lorna Doane, Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid, and Wheat Thins.

In accordance with the policy on boycott endorsements adopted by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the federation will maintain the “Made in Mexico” snack products of Mondelēz International on its published boycott list for up to one year from the date of endorsement unless your union requests an earlier termination of the listing. At the end of the year, you may request to have the company included on the list for another 12 months.

The AFL-CIO and the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department will post this product line to the list on their websites and Union Label Letter publication.

For more information about the “Check the Label” campaign, please watch this informational video.

 

ChecktheLabel_HowTo

150 Workers Die Every Day From Preventable Workplace Injuries And Illnesses


150 workers die every day AFLCIO
(Washington, DC, April 27, 2016)More than 4,820 workers were killed on the job in 2014, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO. Additionally an estimated 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a daily loss of nearly 150 workers from preventable workplace injuries and illnesses.

“Working people should not have to risk their lives to make a living and support their families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Yet every day, millions of Americans are forced to work with little to no safety protections while big businesses and corporations profit off our lives.”  

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 25th year the AFL-CIO has publishednational findings on the safety and health conditions for working people.Among other findings:

  • The report calls attention to an increase in fatalities among older workers.
  • The states with the highest fatality rates were Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota and Mississippi.
  • In 2014, 804 Latino workers lost their lives on the job and the fatality rate for Latino workers remains higher than the national rate.
  • Workplace violence injuries, particularly among women workers in health care, is a serious problem. The workplace violence injury rate has increased by 60% over the past five years, while the overall job injury rate has declined.

Oversight of job safety and health conditions remains weak and is getting worse in certain ways.  OSHA can now inspect a workplace on average only once every 145 years, compared with once every 84 years in 1992, when the AFL-CIO issued its first report. The average penalty for serious violations last year was only $2,148 and the median penalty for worker deaths was only $7,000.

DOTJ16_fb4b_UnionDensityStatesSafer“We have made important progress, including winning new OSHA silica standards to protect workers from deadly dust,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “But as this report shows, too many employers are cutting corners and workers are paying the highest price. We must keep working for stronger laws and enforcement to hold employers accountable, until all working people are safe on the job.” said Trumka.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect is being released in conjunction withWorkers Memorial Day when vigils, rallies, and actions are being held across the country to remember workers killed and injured on the job. The report can be found online here: aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.

 

Indiana Carrier Plant Workers Take Their Case Directly To UTC Shareholders

Members of the Indianapolis community rally behind USW Local 1999 on March 23, 2016.

Members of the Indianapolis community rally behind USW Local 1999 on March 23, 2016 after United Technologies announced they would be moving the plant to Mexico. Image by USW 1999

Steelworkers travel to shareholders meeting, deliver petition calling on Carrier’s parent company to reconsider moving production from Indianapolis to Mexico

United Technology shareholders came face-to-face with workers being destroyed by insatiable corporate greed.

On February 10th, United Technologies (UTC) announced its “business decision” to shutter the Carrier plant in Indianapolis and move production to Monterrey, Mexico.  The move would eliminate at least 1,400 jobs in Indianapolis. A video of the heartless announcement was posted on YouTube and has received more than 3.7 million views, drawing national attention to UTC offshoring plans.

On Monday, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 who work at the facility scheduled for closure traveled to the UTC shareholder meeting in Florida.  The USW members delivered a petition signed by 4,500 people, asking the company to reconsider moving their jobs to Mexico, and called on UTC to keep good, family-sustaining jobs in Indianapolis.

“Abandoning the Indianapolis plant will have a devastating effect on not only 1,400 workers, but also our families and our community,” said USW Local 1999 Unit President Donnie Knox. “UTC’s decision to move our jobs to Mexico and the video of a manager’s callous delivery of that devastating news to workers in Indianapolis have made Carrier and UTC into poster children for corporate greed.”

United Technologies’ greed is not unusual. It is exactly what many of the other American companies have done over the last thirty years.  Corporations sell out American workers, who labored to build the company from the ground up, only to watch their jobs shipped overseas so the stockholders can make a quick buck.

In October, United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, used a stock buyback program to temporarily inflate the share price.  They announced plans to buy back $12 billion worth of the corporation’s own stock — boosting the price per share up by almost 5%.  UTC plans to spend another $3 billion later this year, to buyback even more shares. This is great news for the wealthy executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers who hold the majority of UTC stock (even though it’s one of the reasons for a recent downgrade in UTC’s bond rating).

What about the people who work for UTC?  Instead of reinvesting in the company, expanding current operations or increasing the wages of the hard working men and women who built the company, UTC decided to use all those billions to buy back their own stock.

Just imagine what that $12 billion could have meant for the 195,000 workers employed by UTC.

As if spending $12 billion to buy back their own stock was not bad enough, let us not forget that UTC also paid out dividends to stockholders.  In 2015, UTC paid a quarterly dividend of around $0.66 per share. This means that over the year UTC paid out $2.50 to all 843 million shareholders, totaling $2.1 billion dollars in dividend payouts.

That’s more than $14 billion total paid to stockholders in buybacks and dividends.  The amount of money would it take to keep these 1,400 workers in Indianapolis would be just a drop in the bucket, compared to what is being shelled out to stockholders.  The greedy executives do not seem to care about the workers, their families, or the city they will destroy when they close this factory.

Knox, and his fellow Steelworkers, delivered a petition with more than 4,500 signatures from Carrier employees and their supporters from Indianapolis and around the country, calling on the company to reconsider its heartless decision to abandon American workers.

Carrier’s decision to move these jobs to Mexico is what is wrong with too many American corporations. They no longer care about building a lasting company that employs as many Americans as they can, they only care about how they can boost their stock prices to further line their own pockets.

The members of Local 1999 are going to continue to fight until Carrier reverses their decision to send these jobs to Mexico.

On Friday, April 29, members of USW Local 1999 will take the fight to save their jobs to the streets with a march and rally at the Indiana State Capitol. The rally will be headlined by USW International Vice President Fred Redmond, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.


Here are three articles on United Technologies stock buyback program:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/united-technologies-unveils-12-billion-buyback-1445343580

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-utc-results-idUSKCN0SE1AR20151020

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/united-technologies-sets-6-billion-accelerated-buyback-2015-11-12


Related reading on stock buybacks from the NH Labor News:

Read the series about Verizon as a case study of what’s wrong with the economy, starting here.

Read “What Mitt Romney taught us about America’s Economy” here.

Read “McDonalds: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders” here.

Read more NHLN coverage of stock buybacks here.

(LEO W GERARD) GOP: It’s OK for Corporations to Kill Workers

Worker Operating Heavy Machinery

Worker Operating Heavy Machinery (OSHA)

 

Alan White couldn’t shout jubilation from the rooftop on March 25 when he heard that the U.S. Department of Labor, after decades of trying, had finally issued a stricter rule to limit exposure to potentially deadly silica dust in workplaces.

He was happy, all right. After all, he’d worked with the United Steelworkers (USW) to get the rule adopted. It’s just that he knew shouting would induce his silicosis coughing.

Within days, though, indignation replaced his jubilation. White, who’d been sickened by the debilitating, irreversible and often fatal disease at work in a foundry, watched in disgust as Republicans attempted to overturn the rule that the Labor Department said could save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually.

Last week, GOP House members conducted a hearing to further their case against saving those lives. They did that just days before Workers Memorial Day, April 28, when organized labor renews its solemn pledge to strive for workplace safety rules and formally commemorates those who have died on the job in the previous year.

2016-04-24-1461513197-1819695-workersmemorialday.jpg

The totals aren’t in for 2015 yet, but the year before, 4,679 workers died on the job. That’s nearly 90 a week, 13 a day, seven days a week. Twenty-eight members of my own union, the USW, died on the job since Workers Memorial Day 2015.

But the GOP position is clear. Republicans will do whatever it takes to ensure that corporations can sicken and kill workers with impunity. If the argument is that workers’ lives and lungs must be sacrificed to ensure that foundries and fracking operations and construction companies can make bigger profits by releasing silica particles under 40-year-old standards now considered dangerous, then the GOP will take the side of CEOs who value workers as trivial.

These politicians would leave workers like Alan White to be victims of this sneaky, silent killer. Silica, which is in sand and rocks, is released during industrial processes that involve cutting and blasting and cleaning silica-containing materials, such as concrete, tile and brick. About 2 million American workers inhale the tiny crystalline particles in levels high enough to threaten their health, almost always without knowing it. The dust causes workers’ lung tissue to swell and become inflamed. Over time, that causes scarring, and the lungs stiffen, making it hard to breathe.

That condition, called silicosis, increases the worker’s risk of bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calculated that the previous exposure limits, which were set more than 40 years ago, were so inadequate that thousands of workers died every year even though their employers were complying with the law.

Alan White’s doctors determined his impairment to be 66 percent three years ago. They described it as progressive massive fibrosis of the lungs. At the age of 51, it means his life is circumscribed. “I went waking around the park and got passed up by a group of elderly women, say in their 70s, like six of them, who were running and talking. I can walk. But I can’t really talk while I am walking. I am sitting still and talking on the phone and getting out of breath,” he told me.

He must be careful about simple chores, like removing lint from the dryer filter. “I can’t just swipe at it because it will make me cough for 10 minutes,” he explained. If he tries to carry a basket of laundry up the 28 stairs, he may be able to make it, he said, “but then I can’t breathe. It is like am breathing in as much as I can and I am not getting enough air.” Anyone who has suffered asthma or has been held under water too long knows the panic that induces.

This crept up on White. He began work in the foundry at what is now called Aurubis in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1995. He stayed in the foundry for 16 years, but with the amount of overtime he worked, averaging 60-hour work weeks and often more than that, he estimates that it was the equivalent of 20 years.

There is silica-containing brick in the foundry furnace. When workers like White cleaned it with air chisels and crowbars, silica would fly into their environment without their knowledge.

White said the employer fitted him for several types of respirators and masks when he was hired, but told him he would need only the dust mask in the smoky foundry area. He believes now, too late, that he should have been wearing a particulate filter.

A decade after White started the job, he noticed he was slowing down and was tired a lot. He attributed it to aging and tried to lose weight and eat better.

In December of 2008, he developed a cough. It lingered through the winter and early spring. In April, just after he turned 44, he went to a doctor who heard something when he listened to White’s lungs and sent him for an X-ray.

The technician looked at the pictures and said to him, “I will be right back. Don’t move.” She brought in the doctor. “You know it is serious when they bring the doctor right in,” White said.

That doctor gave him the name of an expert who ordered a CAT scan. “He put the film on the wall and turned on the light. He knew right away what it was. He said, ‘This is silicosis.’”

White’s daughter was 19. He wondered if he would live to see her marry, to meet his grandkids.

At Aurubis, White is a member of the USW, and one of his doctors knew a USW health and safety expert and linked up the two. That’s how White got involved in the USW campaign to strengthen the silica rule. White testified at hearings, seeking stronger standards to prevent other workers from suffering as he has. And he has met U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who cites White’s case as an example of why decreasing silica exposure is so important.

But U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is intent on sending the silica standard back 40 years.

Walberg noted in a press release that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concedes that 30 percent of the jobsites it tested did not comply with the previous silica standard.

So, Walberg said, the Labor Department’s first priority should be enforcing that old standard, not creating new, tougher standards that would protect workers better. “If OSHA is unable – or unwilling – to enforce the current limit for silica exposure, why should we expect the results under these new standards to be any different?”he asked.

That, of course, disregards the 70 percent of workplaces that apparently did comply with the law and likely will obey the new regulations to protect their workers. It also deliberately ignores the fact that the Republican-controlledCongress has continuously cut funding for OSHA. Walberg condemns the safety police – OSHA – for failing to enforce the law after slashing the funding that would have enabled the safety police to enforce the law.

But Walberg also is contending that as long as one thing is broken, nothing can be fixed until that one thing is completely repaired. So, for example, as long as banks are being robbed by guys in ski masks, in Walberg’s world, the government should not outlaw cyber account theft. As he put it, “why should we expect the results under these new standards to be any different” when police haven’t stopped the ski mask thieves from breaking into vaults?

Alan White described the Republicans’ behavior as shameful. “It just shows the lack of understanding of what workers go through.”

White, who still works at Aurubis, but in shipping, where he can use a golf cart to get around when he needs to, also said he doesn’t understand why some corporations devalue human life: “At our facility, we buy copper and zinc and tin. Copper is a couple dollars a pound, tin is a few dollars a pound.

“Anyone who tries to take that out of the plant and to a scrap yard to make a few dollars can get fired. Just like you protect your raw materials, the people who do the work to make that raw material into a finished product must have some importance and protection.

“Why not show the same consideration for your human resource to make sure they are not injured?”

On this Workers Memorial Day, let’s make sure humans get better treatment than tin.

Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Will Strengthen Economy and Unlock Good Jobs and Clean Energy

 Washington, D.C.  – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on Senate passage of S. 2012, The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2012 crafted by Senators Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Portman (R-Ohio), Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Cantwell (D-Washington):

“On behalf of the 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, I commend the Senate on their bipartisan vote (85-12) in favor for much needed energy legislation that will strengthen our economy and unlock good jobs and clean energy.

The bill streamlines the process for construction of pipelines on federal land and the natural gas export permit application process, which will help position the United States to lead globally as a clean energy super power, bring affordable energy to U.S. consumers, and create good jobs. It will also increase investment in renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydropower and amend the Federal Power Act to encourage hydropower development by extending the total period for preliminary permits.

The bill has important provisions to incentivize energy efficiency for new state and commercial building construction; including a requirement that the Department of Energy work closely with manufacturers to invest in the research, development and commercialization of updated energy efficient technologies.

Senate Bill 2012 also addresses critical gaps in America’s nuclear energy research and production. LIUNA strongly believes that nuclear energy is not only integral to a clean energy economy, but it provides good jobs for workers across the country.

LIUNA urges the Senate and House to work together so that this bill can be conferenced and presented to the President and become law.” 

Faculty Votes for Union at Plymouth State University

AAUP 100 Years Logo 2Plymouth, NH– In an election held this week, a majority of the one hundred seventy-four tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire voted to form a union for collective bargaining with the American Association of University Professors. Plymouth State University is one of the four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire.

“My colleagues and I look forward to working with the university to establish agreements and processes for faculty that guarantee workload equity, transparency in governance, and academic freedom. Assured academic freedom for faculty creates the best environment for student learning,” said Rebecca Noel, associate professor of history at Plymouth State University.

“I am happy that we faculty at Plymouth State University have chosen to join together as the newest members of the AAUP to improve clarity and workload issues, and I look forward to working with the administration to making PSU an even stronger institution,” said Chris Chabot, Plymouth State University professor of biology.

“This is great news. Plymouth State University faculty, working together in a union, will have a positive impact on the faculty working conditions, student leaning conditions, and the university as a whole,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.

In voting to join together to bargain collectively as an AAUP chapter, faculty members at Plymouth State join many of their colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and across the country.

Advocates Push For New DOL Rule On Silica Dust, While Republicans Try To Scuttle Change

New Silica Rule offers a Simple Solution to a Deadly Problem

Today the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing to review the Department of Labor’s (DOL) long-awaited rule updating the silica dust standard.

Silica is common in many workplace dust exposures. It is found in stone, rock, brick, and other building materials. More than 2 million workers are exposed to silica dust each year in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and other industries.

Crystalline silica is a human lung carcinogen and can also lead to kidney and respiratory diseases. Breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis, a lung disease that can severely disable affected workers. A worker with silicosis typically has trouble breathing, making it difficult to walk, climb steps or carry out other basic functions. The disease can be fatal; there is no cure or treatment currently available.

Since 2009, House Republicans have been trying to block this rule change with claims that the rule change will harm businesses through increased costs.

“Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform,” said International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland.

Democratic committee members strongly support this new standard to reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust, a World Health Organization declared carcinogen that causes silicosis, lung cancer, respirable illnesses such as COPD, and kidney disease.  DOL projects the new standard will save more than 600 lives each year and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis each year. 

“The purpose of the new federal rule limiting exposure to silica dust is to save lives, reduce disease and make our workplaces safer,” said Jessica Martinez, Acting Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).”

“It’s unclear, however,  what the purpose of today’s hearing is. The concerns employers have about the new rule have been heard and these issues have been decided during an exhaustive regulatory process. OSHA rigorously followed all required rules and procedures and received extensive input from all stakeholders, including workers, employers and safety experts,” added Martinez.

“The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections can make better use of its time — and taxpayer money — by examining the many other areas in which workers need new, enforceable protections against hazards which claim tens of thousand of lives and cause millions of injuries every year,” Martinez concluded.

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland released the following statement in Support of OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica: 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) applauds OSHA for doing what’s right for working people; creating healthier workplaces by updating the silica standard is a simple solution to a deadly problem.

The current standard is insufficient to protect construction workers. At the current permissible exposure limit, 100% of construction workers will get sick or die from silica-related illness over the course of a 40 year career. According to a CDC report issued under President Bush, “deaths from inhalation of silica-containing dust can occur after a few months’ exposure.”[1] That is a fact that has been well-established, and we have seen the results of exposure at permissible limits in the untimely illness of far too many bricklayers—union and non-union alike. Even at the reduced permissible limit under the new rule, a significant number of workers will become ill over the course of their working lives, but it will go a long way toward improving the health and safety of workers in this industry.

The new standard provides a meaningful and practical way for employers and employees to comply with the law. This is not complicated. Table one in the rule “matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. The dust control measures listed in the table include methods known to be effective, like using water to keep dust from getting into the air or using ventilation to capture dust. In some operations, respirators may also be needed. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the permissible exposure limit.”[2]  The remedies offered in the new standard are simple: water and electricity are available on jobsites already, and most equipment already comes with standard attachments for water or vacuum removal methods.

Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform. Members of the BAC are committed to do everything in our power to support the silica standard for the construction industry and fight any effort to overturn or delay implementation of the rule.

We are very disappointed in today’s effort by congressional republicans trying to undercut safety efforts in favor of a few powerful interests. For decades, BAC has fought for reduced exposure limits, and the science is behind us. Working people should not get sick and die in return for a hard day’s work—especially when reasonable, feasible and available measures exist to protect them.

Congress would do well to remember that the people exposed to this hazardous element expect that their elected representatives will do what’s good for America, our communities and our families. It is the right time to move this rule forward, and we expect our elected leaders to do their jobs and lead.

Hopefully members of Congress will ultimately move forward with the rule change and put the health and safety of workers ahead of corporate lobbyist who are pushing against it.

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