Obama Acts to Deny Federal Contracts to Labor Law Violators

by Mike Hall

Obama signing contractorsPresident Barack Obama on Thursday signed an executive order that will make it harder for companies with a history of labor law violations such as wage and hour and workplace safety to win federal contracts. Said Obama:

We expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts. Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to companies that violate workplace laws, they shouldn’t go to companies that violate workers’ rights.

From raising wages to workplace protections, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most.”
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Low-Wage Workers Hit Hardest by Workplace Injuries, Illnesses

by Mike Hall

Low-Wage-Workers-Hit-Hardest-by-Workplace-Injuries-Illnesses_blogpostimageIt’s a double whammy for low-wage workers when they get hurt or fall ill on the job.

First, they lose pay because the vast majority (more than 80%) of low-wage workers do not have any paid sick leave to take time off to recover. Second, not only does the pay check shrink, but because of inadequate workers’ compensation laws, they must shoulder a bigger portion of their health care costs with those smaller paychecks. That means workers and their communities must bear a larger share of the $39 billion (in 2010) that workplace injuries and illnesses cost the nation.

A new policy brief, “Mom’s Off Work ’Cause She Got Hurt: The Economic Impact of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in the U.S.’s Growing Low-Wage Workforce,” examines the growing problem.

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Remember the Triangle Fire Victims

by Mike Hall

March 25 is the 101st anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City, which killed 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women. Many of them jumped to their deaths from the 10-story factory to escape the fire because they were locked inside.

While the Triangle fire is a prominent part of labor history, not just for its tragedy but as the impetus for new labor laws and workplace safety reforms, there is no permanent memorial.

On Friday in New York City, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, a nationwide coalition of organizations and individuals committed to honoring the victims, will launch its international design search for the Triangle Fire Memorial.

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Dying for Work

Leo Geard, USW President

Across America, people are dying for work. It’s not because they’re unemployed. It’s because they work for corporations that don’t care if they die.

Every day, 12 workers die on the job in America — often because a corporation has defied regulations or ignored standard safety procedures. Many more die prematurely from work exposure to toxic materials.

If corporations are people, as Mitt Romney and the Republican majority on the Supreme Court claim, then their privileges as humans come with the responsibility to act humanely. Corporate-people must fulfill their obligations to workers and communities. Profit can’t be their sole raison d’etre. That’s not how it is with flesh-and-blood people. If it were, then society would condone profit-motivated murder, like killing a parent for insurance money. Now that they’re people, corporations have an even greater duty to prevent deaths on the job. And if they don’t, they must be held accountable in criminal court the same way a money-grubbing son would be if he murdered his parents for the life insurance.

Workplace explosions get all the attention. Three that occurred two years ago next month killed 47 workers. Within 18 days, seven died at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash.; 29 in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia and 11 on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Aftermath

 By Leslie Stainton

The assault itself was just the beginning–then came the nightmares, the panic attacks, the endless cycle of doctors’ and lawyers’ appointments, the terrifying realization that something in her had vanished on January 31, 2011, and she couldn’t get it back.


At first she thought she had died. She could hear people around her crying, “Oh my God, oh my God, where’s all the blood coming from?” But she felt no pain and couldn’t open her eyes. Her head seemed to be detached from her body.

“Maybe I’m dead,” she thought. “But how did I die?”

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New Study Reveals Job Safety Is Top Worker Concern

Interfaith Worker Justice

Interfaith Worker Justice

Workers are more concerned about safety on the job than any other issue, according to a new study from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The report, Public Attitudes Toward and Experiences With Workplace Safety – which draws on dozens of surveys and polls – found that 85 percent of workers rank workplace safety first in importance among labor standards, even ahead of family and maternity leave, minimum wage, paid sick days, overtime pay and the right to join a union.

Every year, thousands of workers are injured on the job due to unsafe working conditions, few of which are ever reported. Early this year, Interfaith Worker Justice, with the support of the Public Welfare Foundation, zeroed in on this crisis by targeting seven key cities throughout the country and assisting local worker centers in those cities to develop education and awareness programs around health and safety protections on the job and the recourses available for workers when they’re injured.

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March 20 Demo: Remembering the Triangle Fire

Next Thursday (March 20), the United Hebrew Trades – New York Jewish Labor Committee, trade unionists, city officials, students and others are gathering to remember the 97th Anniversary of the Triangle Fire. The event will take place from 12 noon to 1 p.m. at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, just east of Washington Square Park.

( For more info: Carolyn De Paolo, United Hebrew Trades/JLC 217-477-0767)

This is is not only a remembrance, but a demonstration of the past. The UHT/JLC points out that in 2006, 99 NYC workers were killed on the job, one-third of them from a fall. So the Thursday event is part of the on-going fight to prevent the killing of workers on the job.

Don’t know much about the Triangle Fire, then read past the fold.

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