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Judge uphold’s Wal-Mart citation regarding worker death

05.10.11

APRIL 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Judge uphold’s Wal-Mart citation regarding worker death

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 27th- The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) applauded a ruling by Chief Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney of the Independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upholding the citation and full penalty issued to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadeguate crowd management following a November 2008 trampling death of a worker at one of the company’s retail locations in New York.

In May 2009, OSHA cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management, concluding an investigation launched after a worker was trampled to death on November 28th, 2008, at its Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, New York. The worker was knocked to the ground and crushed by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers surging into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” holiday sales event. OSHA’s inspection found that the store’s workers were at risk of being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management practices. Those practices would have provided the store’s workers with the necessary training and tools to safety manage a large crowd of shoppers.

“This is a win for both workers and consumers. It’s only fitting that today the 100th anniversary of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City where 146 workers lost their lives that a judge affirmed OSHA’s right to protect the safety and health of workers from clearly recognized hazards. Today’s ruling supports OSHA’s position that, even in the absence of a specific rule or standard, employers are still legally responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. If not properly managed by retailers, a large crowd poses a significant threat to the lives of workers and customers,” stated Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Under its General Duty Clause, OSHA issued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. one serious citation for exposing workers to the recognized hazards of asphyxiation or being crushed by a crowd. The citation carried a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law. A violation is serious when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The OSHAct was passed in 1970.

AFT Union President calling for sharing fiscal responsibility

05.10.11

APRIL 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

AFT Union President calling for sharing fiscal responsibility

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION- March 28th- The President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) International Union, Randi Weingarten, is challenging those who have blamed public employees and their right to collectively bargain as a cause of the states’ fiscal problems. Noting that there is no relationship between states whose employees have bargaining rights and states that have big deficits.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that robbing workers of voice will somehow repair deficits. Collective bargaining is not the cause of our state budget crises, but it can be part of the solution,” stated Ms. Weingarten.

Ms. Weingarten criticized elected leaders, such as Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker stating, “Who prefer a scorched earth approach, who refuse to consider the input of others, and who sell their reckless measures as necessary expediencies in desperate times. Even through Wisconsin’s public employees agreed to massive pay cuts and every proposed concession. Walker refused to take yes for an answer.”

In Contrast, Ms. Weingarten said that the approach to dealing with huge deficits being pursued by California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was one of shared responsibility, “that hopefully will lead to a better budgerary outcome in the short term and better economic output in the long term.”

The AFT represents approximately 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other higher education faculty and professional staff; federal and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators throughout the United States. Locally, the AFT represent teachers employed in the Scranton School District, the Pittston School District, the Dunmore School District and instructors employed by Lackawanna County vocational school.

Ms. Weingarten has offered examples of places where collective bargaining is working to help solve budget problems. Teachers and other public employees identified significant cost-savings in Broward County Florida, where teachers through their union called attention to significant wasteful spending, and the courts agreed with them.

“One thing that we’ve learning over the past few months is that it’s relatively easy to balance budgets if you’re willing to unbalance everything else, public services jobs, investments in the future, and the middle class,” Ms. Weingarten added.

Republicans blocking extention of Trade Adjustment program

05.10.11

APRIL 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Republicans blocking extention of Trade Adjustment program

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 28th- The United States House of Representatives leadership abruptly pulled a trade bill off the floor on February 8th because of concerns from conservative Republicans that the legislation allowed for too much government interference in the American economy.

The legislation would have extended the expiring Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs along with specific tariff reductions. The assistance programs provide aide and training to workers who lose their jobs or see their hours or wages reduced due to increased imports. The TAA expired on February 12th.

Trade adjustment benefits have long been used as a way to build support for free trade agreements.

The TAA program was expanded as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law and the Republican leadership argued that the TAA program picks “winners and losers” by singling out workers affected by increased imports for “extra generous treatment” by the government. The Republicans called the program duplicative, overly expensive and ineffective.

While the TAA program has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, the conservative Republicans outlined several concerns with the legislation stressing that conservatives have voted to eliminate the program in the past.

The House of Representatives Republican leadership argues that recent TAA extensions have been enacted as part of an implicit agreement that stalled trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama would be advanced. Thus far, none of those agreements has won congressional approval with organized labor not supporting any of them.

Many Republicans have stated they will not advance TAA without a commitment from the Obama Administration to send the three pending trade deals to Congress for approval, not just the deal with South Korea.

“It is vital that we continue these present programs and I am working with my Republican colleagues to ensure that happens. Trade Adjustment Assistance provides critical training benefits, and tens of thousands of displaced workers will be affected if we allow this program to expire,” stated Democratic Michigan Representative Sander Levin.

It remains unclear whether the House leadership would attempt to bring the bill back to the floor in time to send it over to the United States Senate before summer recess.

Anti-union legislation involving food stamps introduced

05.10.11

APRIL 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Anti-union legislation involving food stamps introduced

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 28th- Several Republican House of Representatives introduced legislation that includes a amendment that would cut off food stamps to the entire family if one member is involved in a labor dispute that results in a work stoppage.

H.R. 1135 was introduced on March 16th in the 112th Congress and is called the “Welfare Reform Act of 2011.”

The newspaper reviewed the 25th page document which includes language that would prohibit workers families from being able to receive federally funded food stamps if one member of the family is on strike against their employer.

Under Section 202 of the Welfare Reform Act of 2011 “an employee of the Federal Government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, who is dismissed for participating in a strike against the Federal Government, the State, or political subdivision of the State shall be considered to have voluntarily quit without good cause.”

The legislation continues; “notwithstanding any other provision of law, no member of a family unit shall participate in the food stamp program at any time that any able-bodied work eligible adult member of such household is on strike as defined in the Labor Management Act, 1947. That a family unit shall not lose its eligility to participate in the food stamp program as a result of one of its members going on strike if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking members of the household: Provided further, That such ineligibility shall not apply to any family unit does not contain a member on strike, if any of its members refuses to accept employment at a plant or site because of a strike or lockout.”

If the legislation becomes law striking union members will be encouraged to cross their own picket lines and return to their jobs for their families to continue to receive food stamps.

The Republican Representatives that sponsored the legislation that was introduced included Jim Jordan (Ohio); Tim Scott (South Carolina); Scott Garrett (New Jersey); Dan Burton (Indiana); and Louie Gohmert (Texas).