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Workplace Safety Groups Head To Houston To Train Reconstruction Workers

After Harvey, Immigrant and Labor Rights Groups Team Up to Provide Ongoing Health and Safety Training for Reconstruction Workers 

Harvey Flood and Damage by Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) FLIKR CC

Fe y Justicia Worker Center, National COSH, Chemical Workers Union and National Day Laborer Organizing Network deliver “Train-the-Trainers” sessions and prepare Reconstruction Works campaign to support recovery workers facing severe toxic health and safety hazards in the workplace 

HOUSTON, TX:  With recovery efforts underway from the devastating effect of Hurricane Harvey – and new storm damage now confronting Puerto Rico, Florida and the Caribbean – health and safety trainers as well as workers and immigrant rights advocates from local and national safety groups will be in Houston this week to train workers and community members on safe clean up procedures and their rights to a safe workplace.

Ongoing efforts are currently underway to expand and build upon past “Reconstruction Works” campaigns that have played a critical role in supporting reconstruction workers after Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Rita and other disasters.

During previous cleanup efforts recovery workers exposed to flood waters suffered skin infections, lesions, asthma attacks, allergic reactions and other conditions. Workers are also exposed to the risk of lead poisoning and asbestos exposure when working in damaged or collapsed buildings.

This week, experienced health and safety trainers from National COSH and other COSH affiliates from around the country will join local advocates from the Houston-based COSH affiliate Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center to provide “Train-the-Trainer” classes for workers and advocates, who will in turn provide awareness training in workplaces and communities throughout Houston.

“The response from COSH groups and our allies to the emergency on the Gulf Coast has been amazing,” said National COSH co-executive director Jessica Martinez, who is joining the “Train-the-Trainer” session in Houston. “Groups are sending people, sharing information and resources and helping to raise funds so that recovery workers can stay safe while rebuilding their communities.”

“Most Houston neighborhoods were somehow impacted, so workers and neighbors are cleaning up a wide range of water and wind damage that can get people seriously hurt,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, executive director of Faith and Justice Worker Center (Centro de Trabajadores Fe y Justicia), the premier worker center in the Houston area coordinating local efforts.

“Day laborers, construction workers, utility workers, domestic workers, as well as neighbors and volunteers, are already going into flooded and damaged buildings, where they will encounter mold, sewage, and air and water that may have been contaminated with toxic pollutants,” said Acuña Arreaza. “Our goal is to equip them with the tools and information they need to reduce the risk of getting sick, injured or killed while taking on these difficult assignments.”

“Gulf Coast communities face a massive, urgent rebuilding job, as will Florida, Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands,” said Frank Cyphers, President of the Akron, Ohio-based International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC). The ICWUC, a council of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, is assisting the worker and community training effort in Houston, with support from federal grants from the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS).

“This is no time to cut corners on worker safety,” said Cyphers. “We need to build on lessons learned during recovery from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and other disasters: Workers must know their rights – and know how to assess and prevent potential hazards.”

BACKGROUND: The three-day, bilingual “Train-the-Trainer” sessions, in English and Spanish, begins today, September 13th at the Dominican Sisters of Houston campus. The curriculum will develop trainers to teach safety awareness, workplace safety rights, and information about mold, sewage, airborne and waterborne contaminants, and other hazards associated with disaster recovery.

In addition to upcoming training sessions, National COSH has partnered with NYCOSH to provide a series of fact sheets on safe clean up procedures. The fact sheets describe known hazards experienced during previous recovery efforts, including asphyxiation, building collapse, electrocution, explosion, mold, sewage, toxic contaminants and other conditions.

As recovery efforts continue in the coming weeks and months, Fe y Justicia Worker Center will operate a hotline for affected workers and provide ongoing safety awareness training at worksites and community centers.  A donation page at youcaring.com gives concerned citizens a way to support safe and sustainable recovery efforts.


Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center, based in Houston, campaigns for justice and dignity for day laborers, domestic workers and other vulnerable workers.

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org

The International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC), based in Akron, Ohio, represents workers in the chemical industry and other occupations in the U.S. The ICWUC has six worker health and safety federal grants and collaborates with 10 other union partners, including National COSH, to conduct a range of worker safety and health programs and develop rank and file worker trainers.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network works to improve the lives of day laborers in the United States. NDLON works to unify and strengthen its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize and organize day laborers.

Millions Of Workers Are Still In Danger From Asbestos

  Mesothelioma Awareness Day Is September 26th

Nearly 20 million people will develop Mesothelioma in their lifetime due to exposure to asbestos

 

For over forty years workers’ health and safety groups have been fighting to ban asbestos in the United States and throughout the world. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been proven to cause substantial harm, even death to workers. Only 30% of countries have outright banned asbestos even after it was proven to cause mesothelioma, a deadly disease that has a one year mortality rate of nearly 64%.

History of Asbestos

For many years, asbestos was used in building construction mainly for its fire retardant properties. Internal structures were coated with asbestos fibers making them almost fire proof. It was not until many years later that the dangers of using asbestos began to surface. Materials containing asbestos are easily damaged and causes the microscopic, fibers to become airborne. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers, cause serious damage to the body, eventually developing into cancer or other diseases.

Though the first official case of a worker’s death stemming from asbestos exposure was in 1924, it would not be until 1976 before Congress would take action by passing the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1989, Congress went one step further and outright banned the use of asbestos. The ban was subsequently overturned, but asbestos use has been limited to less than 1% of the overall product. In spite of their good intentions, workers are still at risk from asbestos and an estimated 20 million people will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime.

Asbestos Exposure At Work

Though the United States has limited asbestos use, those in the construction industry are especially still at risk for exposure. Asbestos is still commonly used in cement, insulation, caulking, and roofing shingles. It’s estimated that over 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos-containing materials each year and according to the NIOSH work-related lung disease report, nearly 15% of all malignant mesothelioma deaths in 1999 were workers in the construction industry.

Shipyard workers are also at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to a high exposure to asbestos. During WWII as America was building warships as fast as they could, asbestos became a key ingredient, finding use in gaskets and within boiler components. Nearly 4 million individuals working in naval yards or on ships during World War II were exposed to asbestos. However, construction and shipyard workers are not the only ones with an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. Others include firefighters, mechanics, plant workers, railroad workers, sheet metal workers, hairdressers and many more. More information on what industries pose a greater risk for mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure can be found here.

Recently, reconstruction was halted at the Schiller Power Plant in Portsmouth, NH when OSHA received an anonymous tip that workers exposure to asbestos and mercury. OSHA quickly responded to the Manaford Brothers Inc employee who tipped them off. Manaford was then required to “immediately investigate the allegations and make any necessary correction.” Unscrupulous employers do not care about the health and welfare of their employees, they only care about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that our employers are following OSHA regulations for asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma

This year, September 26th has been designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) are working to get people involved in the discussion, hosting a Twitter Chat on September 26th to discuss asbestos and raise awareness of this rare disease. Join in and spread the word to help advocate for a ban on asbestos in the United States and around the world.

Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso 

Even Trump Voters Oppose Eliminating Prevailing Wage Laws

National Poll: Most Voters Support Prevailing Wage
on Public Infrastructure Projects

A new national survey shows that strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans each oppose the elimination of prevailing wage laws, which establish local-market minimum wages for different skilled crafts on government funded construction projects.

The new polling comes as several states consider changes to their prevailing wage laws, and the Trump Administration prepares to roll out a national infrastructure plan.

“While voters may have disagreed on many issues this past November, they agree that prevailing wage laws should be preserved by a wide margin,” said pollster Brian Stryker. “Only 21% of voters want to eliminate prevailing wage lawseven after hearing a commonly referenced argument for doing so. And support for prevailing wage extends to large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Trump voters.”

The polling also shows that support for labor unions is growing as 52% had a favorable opinion of labor unions.  33% of self proclaimed Trump supporters had a favorable opinion of labor unions.

When it comes to the prevailing wage, 54% of Trump voters and 69% of likely 2018 voters, oppose legislation to eliminate the prevailing wage.

Construction is America’s fourth largest industry, and directly supports more than 6.6 million jobs. About a quarter of annual construction output, or $363 billion, is spent on government owned construction projects—including roads, bridges, schools, transit systems, water projects and municipal buildings.

Prevailing Wages are determined by surveys of existing market wage and benefit rates for skilled craft workers—such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, ironworkers, cement masons, heavy equipment operators and othersin more than 3,000 communities across America. The Davis Bacon Act requires prevailing wage on most federally funded construction projects while about thirty states have laws requiring prevailing wages on state or locally funded projects.

Most peer-reviewed research has linked prevailing wage laws with increased local hiring, lower poverty, safer worksites and better economic outcomes. These studies have concluded that prevailing wage laws have no significant impact on public construction costs because they boost workforce productivity and efficiency, while reducing spending on Medicaid, Food Stamps and other public assistance programs for construction workers.

Research has also revealed that these laws disproportionately benefit military veterans, prevent skilled workforce shortages by increasing apprenticeship training, and help to close wage gaps for women and people of color.

Despite the overwhelming public support for prevailing wage laws, three states have recently eliminated these standards (West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky) on state funded public works, and  proposals to weaken or repeal these laws have been introduced in at least three other states (Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio).

The Federal Davis-Bacon Act was written by Republicans and signed into law by Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1931. The law has long enjoyed broad bi-partisan support. In 2015, fifty-four House Republicans joined with Democrats to reaffirm support for the Davis Bacon Act.

Click Here to read a summary of the polling results.


This story based on a press release from Smart Cities Prevail.

Smart Cities Prevail is a non-partisan, national non-profit research and education organization, focused on construction industry wage and contracting standards. Learn more at www.smartcitiesprevail.org

Passing A Prevailing Wage Law Help Ensure Our Tax Dollars Go To Local Workers

 

(Image MidtownCrosing FLIKR)

(Image MidtownCrosing FLIKR)

Without a Prevailing Wage Law our local economy is losing millions to out-of-state contractors

Paying taxes is a fact of life. How we spend our tax dollars can make a big difference in our state and local economy.   We need to do more to ensure that the tax dollars spent to rebuild our local infrastructure are also benefiting local companies and local workers.

We can accomplish both by passing a state prevailing wage law. A prevailing wage law ensures that employers are paying workers what local workers, doing the same job, would make.

It may sound a little confusing but it is actually very simple. A prevailing wage law ensures that an electrician working on a project gets paid what other electricians in New Hampshire are making, not what an electrician from South Carolina is paid.

As we all know the cost of living varies by region and so to do the wages. Over the past few decades we have seen more and more, out-of-state construction companies, come into New Hampshire to do work on state construction projects. These out-of-state companies are bringing in their own workers at sub-standard rates and then take no only our jobs but then take our tax dollars with them when they leave.

Shouldn’t our state government work to ensure that our tax dollars are going to local workers not some cut rate out-of-state corporation?

By passing a prevailing wage law, New Hampshire would create upwards of 1,700 more jobs and would infuse $7.3 million in additional revenue from state and local taxes.

Over the next two years the State of New Hampshire is will be spending $94 million on state funded public works projects. A prevailing wage would ensure that all of that $94 million spent would stay right here in New Hampshire and help the local construction industry regain some of the jobs lost from the great recession.


If you support the passage of a New Hampshire prevailing wage law, come to Concord on Tuesday, January, 19th at 10am in Reps Hall of the State House.

Even if you do not want to speak on behalf of this proposed legislation please come and “sign in” that you are in favor of this legislation.

Having people in the audience during the hearing helps to show that we support our tax dollars going to local businesses and local workers.

Opposing The Kinder-Morgan Pipeline Does Not Make Me Anti-Union

"Kinder Morgan Building Houston" by WhisperToMe - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons -

“Kinder Morgan Building Houston” by WhisperToMe – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons –

Richard Kinder, CEO of Kinder-Morgan, has a history of
supporting anti-union politicians

Recently I have been taking a lot of flak from some of my union brothers for my staunch opposition to the Kinder-Morgan Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline. People have accused me – a union member, labor activist, and the creator and managing editor of the New Hampshire Labor News – of somehow being anti-union because I will not support the pipeline, even though it is backed by some unions.

Let me be very clear: it is not anti-union to oppose a construction project just because a union worker would be hired to complete the job. I support union workers and I have built the NH Labor News to help promote the positive message of labor. I have been against the NED pipeline since its inception, just as I was against the Keystone XL pipeline. The newly-signed agreement to use union labor to construct the NED pipeline is not going to sway my opposition.

It is my belief that we should be moving away from fossil fuels and rebuilding our energy infrastructure with new, more efficient, renewable energy. Look around your neighborhood and see how many people are installing solar panels on their roofs, easing the burden of coal and gas power plants in our area – improving air quality and our children’s health.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers regularly promotes the fact that their union members are out there installing solar arrays. The IBEW recently finished construction on the largest rooftop solar array in the country that is estimated to generate 6.5 Megawatts (million watts) of clean energy. That would power approximately 6,500 homes and businesses.

So yes, I can be for union jobs and green energy at the same time. New Hampshire is peppered with large solar arrays like the one in Peterborough that produces 947 Kilowatts annually.

Then there is the issue of eminent domain. I am against the government using its police powers to take private land rights and give them to a for-profit corporation. Eminent domain should only be used to better the community, not for boosting the profit margins of a billion-dollar corporation. Cities and towns use eminent domain to widen roads or install sewers, as they provide a direct benefit to the local community; but using eminent domain to improve profit margins is just plain wrong.

When asked about the NED pipeline at the VFW Town Hall in Hudson, Bush responded:  "There's a trade-off in this, which is how public policy works. The trade-off is how do you balance the economic interests of working-class families with environmental considerations? And those are best sorted out at the state level, not in Washington, DC," said Bush. After the town hall, Bush told News 9 that he won't be taking sides. "Governor of Florida Jeb Bush at VFW in Hudson, New Hampshire, July 8th, 2015 by Michael Vadon a 09" by Michael Vadon - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

When asked about the NED pipeline at the VFW Town Hall in Hudson, Bush responded:
“There’s a trade-off in this, which is how public policy works. The trade-off is how do you balance the economic interests of working-class families with environmental considerations? And those are best sorted out at the state level, not in Washington, DC.”.
After the town hall, Bush told News 9 that he won’t be taking sides.
“Governor of Florida Jeb Bush at VFW in Hudson, New Hampshire, July 8th, 2015 by Michael Vadon a 09” by Michael Vadon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Proponents of the pipeline say it will reduce our energy costs but fail to provide any hard evidence as to how much we will actually save. Do those saving show up immediately, or after Kinder-Morgan has recouped enough money to pay for the construction of the new pipeline? Remember the lessons we learned from Seabrook, about who ends up paying the costs of construction?

Kinder Morgan has been trying to buy elected politicians in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for the past five years, spending over $2.5 million dollars in lobbying and campaign donations in the past two years alone. Would Kinder-Morgan really spend millions of dollars lobbying to get this pipeline approved out of the goodness of their heart? Or is it because they are expecting to make millions more in profits after it is completed?

Richard Kinder, November 2012. (Photo credit: Matt Hawthorne)

Richard Kinder, November 2012. (Photo credit: Matt Hawthorne)

The CEO of Kinder-Morgan, Richard Kinder, was also cited as “the top conservative CEO donor” in America and has deep ties to the Bush family from Kinder’s days as an executive of the ENRON Corporation. You remember ENRON, the company that went belly up, the CEO went to jail, the workers lost their jobs and their pensions, and the executives received multi-million dollar golden parachutes.

Kinder and his wife have already personally donated $2 million dollars to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise. Richard Kinder also gave out over $98,000 dollars to conservatives in the 2014 elections and over $68,000 in the 2012 elections with a majority of it going to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Ted Cruz for Senate campaign.

Both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are vigorously anti-labor. Bush made national headlines when he told the Union Leader that, “people need to work longer hours.” Bush also praised Governor Rick Snyder’s underhanded political coup that made Michigan a “Right to Work” state. (Read how “Right to Work” worked out in Wisconsin here.)

As a sitting Senator, Cruz attempted to override vetoed legislation that would make it harder for workers to form unions. The TEA Party Republican was instrumental in forcing a government shutdown.

If we build this pipeline, how much more money will Kinder-Morgan and Richard Kinder funnel into the campaigns of anti-worker politicians like Bush and Cruz?

How much damage will Kinder-Morgan do to our environment as the pipeline goes through local nature preserves and watersheds? How much more damage will be done to our children’s health, while our politicians keep promoting Big Oil rather than Green Energy?

Is that worth the potential of a few hundred jobs for a year?

I believe that costs of this pipeline outweigh the potential benefits, and I am not alone. The Massachusetts Attorney General opposes the construction of the pipeline stating, “A new pipeline is not the best solution to New England’s energy needs.”

I guess the real question is: why are some of New Hampshire’s elected labor leaders helping to force through this pipeline, so that the same corporation can turn around and give money to politicians who are attacking unionized workers?

End The Pay Gap, Be A Part Of The Building Trades Unions

The Carpenter’s Union is looking for a few good women.

Are you tired of working for $.23 cents less than a man? Are you bored working in that office,  retail shop, or restaurant?  Do you like working outside? Do you like working with your hands?

Do you want to be a part of something that is working to help build a better community?

If you answered yes to these questions, then a career in the build trades just might be right for you.  No more working for less, as a worker covered by a union contract, everyone gets paid equally regardless of sex.

Working in the building trades gives you a sense of accomplishment knowing at the end of the day you can look back and say, “I helped to build that.”

Are you Woman enough to take on the challenge of
working in the construction industry? 

If you think you are ready to see if you have what it takes to work in the construction industry, then contact Joe or Liz at buildingpathwaysnh@gmail.com.  The Building Pathways program is designed to help women test their skills before they join an apprentice program. After completing the Building Pathways 5-week program you can choose the trade that fits you the best.

Program information can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/buildingpathwaysnh.

You can also go to the Carpenters website http://www.nercc.org/sib for more information.

Hispanic Immigrant Workers To Testify For Stronger Regulations On Silica Dust Exposure At Safety Hearing

New Limits Needed on Workplace Dust, Say Those Who Breathe it Every Day 

Washington DC –Hispanic immigrants from the construction and foundry industries who are directly affected by silica dust, a widespread industrial hazard, will testify today before an administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“We are exposed to the poison,” said José Granado, a construction worker from Houston who came to the United States from El Salvador 15 year ago. “I came to the U.S. looking for a better life. However due to risky and unsafe work that I’m doing in the construction industry, it’s looks like that instead of getting a better life, I came to give mine away.”

At issue is a landmark new regulation, the first proposed by OSHA in many years, which would limit exposure of workers to silica dust. Hearings on the proposed rule, which began at the U.S. Department of Labor on March 18th, will continue through April 4th. Dust from building materials and other industrial processes is common in construction, foundries, glassmaking, hydraulic fracking and other industries.

Experts from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have testified that exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, airways diseases, and autoimmune disorders.  OSHA is proposing a new limit of 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air space, a standard that was first recommended by NIOSH in 1974.

Seven immigrant workers from Houston, Milwaukee, New Jersey and Philadelphia and will testify in Spanish today with the aid of an interpreter. Today’s testimony is a rare opportunity for top government officials to hear from workers directly impacted by proposed safety regulations.

The workers are affiliated with local worker centers and health and safety groups, including Fe y Justicia Workers’ Center in Houston, Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee, New Labor in New Jersey and the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health.

“Immigrant workers often have few options but to take dirty, dangerous jobs that lack proper safety precautions,” said Jessica Martinez, deputy director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a worker advocacy coalition. “These men and women typically work outside the standards of a union contract, which can make it especially difficult to access training and protection from silica dust and other workplace hazards. They are breathing in dangerous dust every day. Their voices must be heard when considering how to make our workplaces as safe as possible.”

According to Granado, contractors routinely ignore safety precautions.

“They only care that the construction project will be completed on time. They don’t care that we work long hours, and we are exposed all those hours, they don’t give us any protective equipment, do not use water or any equipment to vacuum away the dust.

Some coworkers are afraid to report what happens, because the first thing the company tells us that if we do not want to work in that conditions, if we do not like, we have to go to work elsewhere.”

Also testifying today is Jonas Mendoza, a construction worker from New Jersey who is a safety liaison for New Labor. He plans to tell OSHA:

“In the construction industry contractors do not provide the workers with the basics to do the job. In many instances if you ask for protective equipment they give you a mask from the 99 cents store to shut you up… All the contractors should be more considerate with their workers. There are feasible ways to control dust, to prevent contamination of the environment and without hurting the people that perform these jobs.

We are also exposed to dust and we have a high probability of getting lung related diseases as a result of inhaling hazardous dusts.  We don’t even know that is affecting us. Many times we do these jobs without any protection. We are exposed to hazards on demolition jobs in unsafe conditions, in places that are not cleaned, places where there is not even a place to wash your hands before eating. Places where everything is cover in dust.”

In addition to today’s witnesses, who are directly affected by dust exposure, National COSH workplace safety experts will testify before OSHA next Tuesday, April 1st.
ALSO

USW panels to testify in OSHA hearings on proposed standard for workplace exposure to crystalline silica

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

Panels representing the United Steelworkers (USW) who are job safety specialists will each present testimony this morning at public hearings being held by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) in support of a OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) proposed standard to protect workers from silica exposure.

The two USW panels will include workers from facilities where job exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs daily. USW members are exposed to silica in foundries, glass making, refractory manufacturing and shipyards. The hearings begin each day at 9:30 am and run Mar. 18 – Apr. 4 in the Cesar Chavez Auditorium at the USDOL (200 Constitution Ave., NW).

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases.

The proposed rule would cut permitted dust exposure levels in half; require exposure monitoring; medical exams for workers and implementation of dust control methods. The updated standard would protect more than two million workers exposed to deadly silica dust.

OSHA Releases New Standards On Silica Exposure, The AFL-CIO Says It’s “Long Overdue”

Silica Dust Worker Mask Full

Every day across the country workers put themselves in potential danger from Silica dust. Crystalline silica, a compound found in sand, quartz, flint, slate and other elements. Silica isn’t hazardous until it’s airborne, like when it is crushed, ground or cut with a saw.

“Exposure to airborne crystalline silica can put workers at risk of developing silicosis, a non-curable lung disease caused by accumulation of silica dust in the lungs. The dust embeds itself in the lungs and causes scar tissue to form. The scar tissue reduces the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.” (source)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced a proposed rule aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers. The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year. After publication of the proposal, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearings.

“Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Every year, exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis-an incurable and progressive disease-as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease. We’re looking forward to public comment on the proposal.”

Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually.

“The proposed rule uses common sense measures that will protect workers’ lives and lungs-like keeping the material wet so dust doesn’t become airborne,” added Michaels. “It is designed to give employers flexibility in selecting ways to meet the standard.”

The AFL-CIO released this statement after OSHA announced proposed rule
to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica.

The AFL-CIO welcomes today’s release of OSHA’s proposed silica standard. This rule when finalized will help protect more than 2 million workers exposed to this deadly dust and save hundreds of workers lives each year. It is particularly important for workers in construction, foundries, shipyards and in oil and gas drilling who face the highest exposures.

This rule is long overdue. The development of the silica standard began more than 16 years ago.  Meanwhile workers have continued to suffer unnecessary disease and death.

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer and other diseases. The current OSHA silica standard was adopted decades ago and fails to protect workers.  It allows very high levels of exposure and has no requirements to train workers or monitor exposure levels. Simply enforcing the current rule, as some in industry have called for won’t protect workers.

But this new standard will. The proposed rule will cut permitted dust exposure levels in half, require exposure monitoring and medical exams for exposed workers and require the implementation of well-established dust control methods, like the use of water and ventilation.

But this rule is only a proposal – workers exposed to silica dust will only be protected when a final rule is issued.  Some industry groups are certain to attack the rule and try to stop it in its tracks. The AFL-CIO will do everything we can to see that does not happen. We urge the Obama administration to continue moving forward with the public rulemaking process without delay. The final silica rule should be issued as fast as humanly possible, to protect the health and lives of American workers.

Sad Day In The NH HOUSE For NH Workers

Today the NH House voted to kill the expanded gambling bill, SB 152.  SB152 was a bill about creating new jobs. The same jobs that many of these House members campaigned on.  This also means that NH is going to continue to starve our budgets.  SB152 would have added $80 million dollars in new revenue to the NH Budget.  After todays vote, that is gone.

After the vote Governor Hassan released the following statement:

“It is disappointing to see the House of Representatives break from the New Hampshire tradition of open and thorough debate on key issues by voting against moving forward with full consideration of SB 152 and the thoughtful, bipartisan amendments being offered by members.”

“I remain committed to working with the legislature to finalize a balanced budget that restores the priorities that the people of New Hampshire support: job creation, higher education, economic development, strengthening our mental health system and protecting the health and well-being of our communities. Without passing SB 152, the path will be more difficult, but the people of New Hampshire expect us to do difficult things. We must work together to keep our state moving forward and to ensure a brighter, more innovative economic future for all Granite Staters.”

This vote is just another blow to the workers of NH and the NH’s low income families.

Yesterday the NH Union Leader reported on the proposed budget cuts by the NH Senate,  that did not include any funding from the casino bill.

“Morse released a list of $28 million potential reductions in health and human service programs Tuesday which include $4 million to reduce the developmentally disabled wait-list for services. The reduction represents about 25 percent reduction in the money Hassan and the House included in the budget to eliminate the wait-list.

Other reductions in House-approved spending include $3 million for community health centers and $4 million of the $24 million increase Hassan included for the mental health system, which is the subject of a lawsuit brought by patients and the federal government.

Morse’s plan would also delay the restarting of the CHINS program which was eliminated in the last biennium budget except for about 50 of the most at-risk individuals who are a threat to themselves or others.”

After all the backlash of O’Brien’s draconian budget NH is headed down a path that is even worse.  The Senate already rejected the tax increase on the tobacco tax. The only significant increase in revenue left is the ‘gas tax’, which is currently sitting in a Senate committee.

It is sad that the NH House rejected SB152 because thousands of working families were relying on the addition revenue, not to mention the hundreds of new jobs.

Ironworkers Looking To Train The Next Generation With New Training Program

The Ironworkers is looking for Gen Y leaders to fill positions in the rapidly expanding Ironworking industry.

The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) announces two all-new courses designed for Ironworker Contractors, scheduled July 15 – 18 in conjunction with the Ironworker Instructors Training Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Project Management” and “Bidding to Win,” IMPACT’s new courses, are designed both to train future construction industry leaders and to help Contractors grow their business operations. With these courses, IMPACT hopes to help fill the thousands of Ironworker jobs needed to repair and renew the nation’s ailing infrastructure in the coming decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job boom will be driven by the “need to rehabilitate, maintain or replace a growing number of older highways and bridges.”

“We train Ironworkers specifically to complete the kind of large, challenging projects that North America needs to build,” said IMPACT Labor Co-Chair Walter Wise. He added that, while Ironworkers are trained, skilled and ready to work, Ironworker Contractors must also ensure their competitiveness with efficient operations to increase their capacity to grow. Wise is General President of the Iron Workers Union.

Many Ironworker Contractors are part of the Baby Boomer generation and are grooming Gen Y employees as their successors. Demographers sometimes refer to Gen Y as the “echo boom” because of the large size of their generation compared to Gen X. By 2020, more than fifty percent of all employees in the United States will be part of Gen Y, which is loosely defined as the generation of individuals born between 1980 and 2000.

“With the shortage of Gen X workers in the construction industry, it is vital that we maintain continuity in our leadership through innovative courses like these,” said IMPACT Management Co-Chair Bill Brown. Brown points out that it’s also vital to maintain superiority in management and construction technique throughout the industry. “These courses are top-notch in terms of reinforcing project management and bidding skills among veteran and new Contractors alike.” Brown is the President of Ben Hur Construction Co. in St. Louis.

Expert construction industry consultants from FMI will lead “Project Management,” July 15 – 16, while IMPACT’s Cindy Quiroz will lead “Bidding to Win,” July 17 – 18.

About IMPACT: The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) is an independent labor-management partnership designed to create work opportunities in the North American ironworking industry.  Our primary mission is to provide a forum for Ironworkers and Contractors to discuss effective strategies to expand job opportunities through innovative labor-management cooperative programs.  IMPACT provides expertise in training, construction certifications, marketing, construction project tracking and bidding, insurance and Davis-Bacon compliance efforts.  IMPACT also administers a world-class substance abuse program to ensure that Ironworkers are safe, drug-free and ready to work.

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