The War on the Worker Continues

It’s nothing new. The kid gloves came off long ago but it’s been getting more open and prevalent. Workplace safety and health standards have been on the chopping block for the past seven years. But that is nothing new either. A worker’s guaranteed right to a safe and healthy workplace has been picked at and chipped away at and defunded since we first managed to secure it nearly 40 years ago. Now in the quickly fading last days these kings of business – which have been in charge of agencies that guard worker’s health, safety and rights – which have been tearing apart the progress that workers have fought and died to attain have now put an all out full rush to remove any remaining vestiges of worker rights or justice.

PBS recently ran an excellent expose on the issue of OSHA’s allowing employers to under report workplace injury and illness rates. [Watch it here] Workers are increasingly being forced to work in ways that are crippling and killing them just to put dinner on the table. It’s not just meat cutters and packers either. Every job has been sped up. Regulations have been weakened or dropped and enforcement has been mostly ignored. Workers are doing more, faster with less help. Most workplaces are understaffed. Workers are told everyday that they need to “just step up and make due”. With less. For less. For longer due to many workplaces having mandatory overtime. With or without prior notice. Some family values.

Manufacturing has been “lean and mean” for a long time now. While they still have the power these agency heads decided to lose the lean and concentrate on the mean. And it’s been spreading to all sectors of the economy. Deaths in the mining industry are becoming all too common once again, although you’d be hard pressed to find (m)any deaths related to the mining industry according to the MSHA posted revision of what constitutes a fatal injury which is chargable to the mining industry. [Fatal Alert Bulletins, Fatalgrams and Fatal Investigation Reports] And every day seems to bring another report of construction workers killed on the job. [NIOSH Construction Safety Topics page] “Construction has increasingly become a deadly business – especially in New York, where laborers routinely dangle from skyscrapers, all part of a building boom that has defied the national slowdown.”

Well the usual suspects are at it again. After hours. Behind closed doors. Secret doors. And you’re not only not aware of the the discussions taking place you’re not welcome either. Earlier this month the Department of Labor sent a new draft proposed rule on occupational health risk assessment to OMB for review. This stealth rule came out of nowhere. It had never been listed on the OSHA or MSHA regulatory agenda and DOL has refused to make public what it is about.

This is an attempt by the DOL to change by regulation the policy and assumptions used in risk assessments on health hazards that would have the effect of reducing estimates of risk and therefore require less stringent regulation. The rule was developed by the Secretary’s Office and Assistant Secretary for Policy, not OSHA or MSHA at the behest of industry.

They want to get this rule finalized before the end of the administration, even though their action falls outside the deadlines set forth by the White House for concluding rules before the end of this Administration. (Rules were supposed to have been proposed by June 1.)

Rep. Miller and Senator Kennedy have written to Secretary Chao demanding a briefing on what this is all about and will be taking the necessary action to get to the bottom of this.

This, unfortunately, is nothing new. It’s been a full on assault on the working men and women in America’s workplaces for a long time now. Under the guise of ‘keeping competitive’ with other workers in other countries. Many of whom are working for the same corporate overlords as Americans and being told the same lies about us waiting to steal their jobs as are force fed on us. Bill Moyers Journal Expose also had a good overview of what deregulation, free market enterprise and the de-education of the working class has wrought for workers and the nation as a whole. [Read the transcript here]

They’ve barely finished with their revamping of the Toxic Release Inventory and telling cities and states that the actually don’t have the right to know about any plans that manufacturers may have for notifying the public should there be any type of ‘incident’ at a facility. No right to know about evacuation plans. No right to know about containment or clean-up plans. We really don’t actually have the right to know about what chemicals may be stored, produced or byproducts of any of their processes. Now they want to tell you you weren’t injured at work. Or if you were it wasn’t work related.

Workers cannot afford to wait another 6 months to hope for a turn around in the direction this country is headed in. Who every you are planning to vote for this November make sure that they have your health and safety interests at heart, not the corporate lobbyists and big campaign contributors. Workers cannot assume that a candidate, whether for President or a Congressional seat, from any particular party will work in your best interest. You need to ask them and make them answer. Then hold them accountable for what they tell you. Before and after the election.

A Unique, Fun Way to Help Support WisCOSH

Rooftop event July l7 hopes to raise $70,000 for three nonprofits – includes all CSGM groups!

Community Shares and its member organizations are one of three nonprofit groups selected to receive donations at a special downtown 11th story rooftop fundraising event, organized and hosted by Carl Templer.

The event is titled “7-17-70” because Templer hopes to raise $70,000 during the evening of July 17.  The other two beneficiaries will be Rogers Memorial Hospital and Adoption Resources of Wisconsin.  Guests can make the check out to any nonprofit group they choose: Community Shares will facilitate contributions to any of their member organizations, or any other 501-C3 in the US.

“No RSVP is needed but it is welcomed,” said Templer.  “Just come and enjoy this great space for one evening.  The wine and beer will be free.  If you cannot attend, please send a check to your favorite charity. Help me raise a mere $70,000 in one night.”

Templer is inviting everyone to bring a friend and your checkbook, but leave the pressure behind.

“Many non-profits are struggling in Milwaukee, as well as across the country – Let’s help,” said Templer.  “And be sure to bring a guest!  Come for a beer or glass or wine and a great 11th story view of Milwaukee from the roof of this condo. No pressure – just fun – and some dollars for your favorite charity.”

The event will take place from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday July 17th at 730 N. Plankinton Ave. – Unit 10B, Riverfront Lofts Condos.  For more information, contact Community Shares or call Carl at 414-975-3484 or email him at CTempler@wi.rr.com.

Planning Started for WisCOSH Annual Membership Meeting & Dinner

While a date has not yet been set WisCOSH has begun planning some very special activities to commemorate 30 years of helping workers and businesses make workplaces safer and healthier. WisCOSH is looking to have a very special evening this year for our Annual Membership Meeting & Dinner this fall.

As  a part of our 30th year commemoration WisCOSH is holding a design contest for possible use on t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and perhaps even the WisCOSH website. WisCOSH will be posting the details of the contest soon so check back to find out how, when and where to submit your artwork and designs.

WisCOSH is a Member Agency of Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee

WisCOSH is a member of Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee and has been since it was known as AChoice. Most Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee agencies are locally based (though some are state wide) focus on social, economic and environmental justice issues in Milwaukee and around the state of Wisconsin.

Community Shares and it’s member agencies participate in workplace giving campaigns to provide funding for programs which will directly benefit the local area. Community Shares also gives the donor the option to make a donation to any registered 501(c)(3) non-profit agency whether it is a member of Community Shares or not.

Beside the workplace giving campaign member agencies and Community Shares may hold fundraising events throughout the year. Please join us and help support Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee and it’s member agencies. They are quite a fun way to have an enjoyable evening and help support some very deserving agencies at the same time.

WisCOSH to Host Annual COSH Conference

That’s right, the National COSH Conference will be hosted by WisCOSH this year and held in Milwaukee, WI from Wednesday, November 12th to Saturday, November 15th, 2008. The conference is a part of the Vulnerable Workers Grant and moves it’s location each year. At one time the conference was held in conjunction with the National AFLCIO Health & Safety Conference or the American Public Health Assoc. Conference on alternating years. The AFL-CIO no longer hosts a safety and health conference. Last years conference was held at the National Labor College and had several opportunities to interact with the APHA conference attendees.

The conference will be held at the Wyndham (Milwaukee airport hotel & convention center, 4747 S. Howell Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207). WisCOSH has reserved a group of rooms at a special low price in effect from 11/11 to 11/16 so come a day early and/or stay a day extra and see some of Milwaukee’s great attractions. Make your reservations early! The cost of the room is $92/night + local and state tax (currently 14.6%) for single or double occupancy. A roll away bed can be rented for an additional $20 + tax per night. Rooms have 2 queen sized or 1 king sized bed. Children 17 and younger can share a room with their parents for no additional cost! The hotel offers 24/7 pick-up from General Mitchel International Airport as well as parking for those driving. You must make your reservation by October 11th, 2008 to ensure these great prices.

Additional information on what topics will be covered at the conference, group activities and plans for community involvement will be posted as they are discussed and finalized. We hope to have a lot of interaction with local workers and unions as well as some interesting outings to local venues. Won’t you join us?

3rd Quarter for Vulnerable Workers Training Grant Ends

The 3rd Quarter of the long running, Dept. of Labor funded (via OSHA’s Susan Harwood  Institutional Competency Building Grant program), Vulnerable Workers Training Grant ended June 30th, 2008 and WisCOSH was able to provide training to over 260 people since April 1st!

During this quarter WisCOSH was able to provide training and information on worker’s workplace safety and health rights and how to use them to a wide range of workers. Some were new workers (teens), some were mature workers returning to new a profession, some had been in the workforce for a long time working in high risk industries and some were workers who worked mostly or solely from temporary placement agencies. Some had a union in their workplace, most did not. WisCOSH provided them all with information about what their rights are under the Occupational Safety & Health Act, how to use them to help make their workplaces safer and healthier and how to prevent retaliation in the workplace because they used their rights.

In this last quarter of our 8th year of the grant WisCOSH wants to provide training to even more workers. The training is FREE! Every attendee receives a folder with information, contact phone numbers and websites where they can attain more information or help.There are many different trainings that are available as a part of this grant. Some of them include : Your Basic OSHA Rights; Workplace Safety & Health Rights for Teen Workers; Identifying Hazards In The Workplace; Respiratory Protection Plan for Nursing Homes, Community Based Residential Facilities, Day Care and Other Long Term Care Facilities. If you would like to know more about how you can participate in a class contact training@wiscosh.org and we will let you know how you can host or join a training class. WisCOSH works with unions, worker centers, businesses and anyone concerned about their safety in the workplace.