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Dept. of Labor and Industries Fines Battle Ground, WA Company After Worker’s Hand Amputated

The Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Battle Ground, WA plastic bottle manufacturer $86,800 for major safety violations after a worker’s hand was caught in machinery and had to be amputated.

Andersen Plastics was cited for one willful violation and six serious violations. The investigation found several problems with the company’s lockout/tagout safety program, a term that refers to the deliberate process of shutting down machinery to prevent accidental startup.

Failure to prevent machinery from accidentally starting puts workers at risk of serious injuries, such as the amputation that occurred in April when a worker was performing a routine task.

L&I cited the employer for a “willful” violation after the investigation found that workers were trained to use unsafe work practices, including bypassing safety guards and not ensuring the machinery was locked out so that it couldn’t start up accidentally.

A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. The penalty for the one willful violation is $58,500.

Additionally, the investigation found the company did not have specific procedures or a safety program to prevent accidental startup. The employees lacked training and did not understand the purpose or procedures for locking out equipment before making adjustments, performing maintenance or clearing a jam.

The inspection also found several other serious violations related to personal protective equipment and safe forklift operation.

Andersen Plastics has filed an appeal.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citation, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

 

Photo credit: Horia Varlan / Foter / CC BY

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Vancouver, WA Road Paver Charged with Unregistered Contracting

A Vancouver, WA man faces criminal charges that he operated as an unregistered contractor while paving driveways for Clark County residents. Some Clark County customers claimed his work was shoddy or never finished.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office has charged Salvador Rodriguez, 44, with six counts of unregistered contracting, a gross misdemeanor. He also faces two felonies − one count each of doing business without workers’ compensation insurance and failing to report or pay workers’ comp premiums. His business goes under the name Chava Paving.

The prosecution stems from a Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation and multiple encounters between Rodriguez and L&I construction compliance inspectors.

 

Ridgefield consumer paid $33,000

The charges cover at least seven jobs Rodriguez’s company performed or agreed to perform from September 2012 through June 2014. In several of the jobs, consumers told L&I that Chava Paving did shoddy work or never finished, but Rodriguez refused to provide refunds or complete the jobs.

In one instance last June, a Ridgefield, WA property owner paid $33,000 in advance for the company to build a retaining wall and parking pad, and spread gravel on a road. The owner said that after five days on the job, the crew’s work was so poor and incomplete that he cancelled the contract. Rodriguez wouldn’t repay any of the money, which the property owner had paid in checks written to Salvador’s 17-year-old son, court documents said.

L&I recommends that consumers never pay contractors in full until the job is completed to their satisfaction.

Along with leaving unsatisfied customers, L&I found that Rodriguez wasn’t paying workers’ compensation for his employees. He employed three to 10 workers, depending on the job, without paying workers’ comp. In one case, at a Vancouver, WA mobile home park in July 2013, one worker even filed a wage complaint, contending that he was never paid; L&I retrieved the back pay for the employee.

 

Admits working without license

During an October 2013 interview with L&I staff, court documents said, Rodriguez admitted he and his workers were performing paving jobs without a contractor’s license or workers’ compensation account. He said he had to keep working to pay his bills.

Rodriguez originally registered Chava Paving in 2005. L&I suspended his contractor registration in May 2009 when his insurance and bond were cancelled, and revoked his workers’ comp coverage in October 2010 for failing to pay premiums. Since 2009, L&I inspectors have issued Rodriguez a dozen civil citations for unregistered contracting; none has been paid.

 

Check out prospective contractors

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I. To register, contractors must have liability insurance, a business license and a bond to allow for some financial recourse if the project goes awry. Consumers can check whether a contractor is registered by going to www.Verify.Lni.wa.gov or calling 1-888-811-5974.

 

Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass / Foter / CC BY

Seattle church leaders back in court for lawsuit against pot shop

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.kirotv.com

Uncle Ike's Pot Shop
Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop

Lawyers for a Seattle church suing to shut down a pot store next door will be back in court on Friday.

The Mount Calvary Church in the Central District is resisting the location of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop.

The church’s lawsuit claims the pot shop lied about how close it would be to a park and a teen recreation center.

The church says it’s trying to keep marijuana away from children.

The lawsuit says Uncle Ike’s lied on the business application about not being near places where youngsters hang out.

The church also said the City of Seattle and State Liquor Control Board never gave them proper notice to fight the pot shop’s application.

KIRO 7 tried to get a comment from the owner of Uncle Ike’s on the alleged lie on their application and to talk about the lawsuit, but the owner did not want to comment.

 The church said it will have a large group at the downtown courthouse Friday morning.

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Sailors Can Sue Tepco in U.S. Over Radiation, Judge Says

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.bloomberg.com



U.S. Navy personnel who were exposed to radiation from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima plant during earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in 2011 can sue the power station’s operator in California, a court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino in San Diego denied the request by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) to dismiss the class-action lawsuit based on jurisdictional issues and have it heard in Japan instead.

“Although Japan is an adequate alternative forum, the balance of the private and public interest factors suggest that it would be more convenient for the parties to litigate in a U.S. court,” Sammartino wrote in her Oct. 28 ruling.

The sailors and their families claimed the company known as Tepco, Japan’s biggest power utility, was negligent in the design and operation of the Fukushima plant, according to their amended complaint filed in February. They’re seeking to create a fund exceeding $1 billion to monitor their health and pay for medical expenses, on top of unspecified damages.

Tepco had argued the U.S. military had contributed to the plaintiffs’ harm, limiting the utility’s liability.

Tepco spokesman Satoshi Togawa declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In Japan, an inquest committee has recommended that local prosecutors indict former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two executives over negligence claims leading to the disaster. Prosecutors in Tokyo said this month they would decide on charges by Feb. 2.

The…

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Working Together to Strengthen the Economy

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from social.dol.gov

October was another solid month of job growth, as our economy added 214,000 jobs and continued its strong, steady recovery. It was the ninth month in a row with greater than 200,000 new jobs (after revisions), and private employers have now created 10.6 million new jobs over the last 56 months. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, compared to 7.2 percent a year ago.

Thanks to the ingenuity and innovation of both our workers and our businesses, as well as strong leadership by President Obama, we have climbed out of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. GDP is now significantly higher than it was before the recession. Consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2007. Rising home values are creating greater economic security for millions of people. For the first time in 20 years, the United States produces more oil than it imports. More people have access to affordable health care, and more students are graduating from high school.

But clearly there is still unease in American households from coast to coast – and it comes from a very real place. There is still widespread economic inequality. Wages haven’t kept pace with productivity. We are in the middle of the strongest run of private-sector job growth in 16 years, but we need the same broadly-shared prosperity that we had in the late 1990s. Today’s rising tide is only lifting some boats, while too many others are struggling to stay above water. We have to do more.

On Tuesday, the American…

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Avoid the Pitfalls of Auto-Pay Agreements

Many of my clients tell me, with fear in their voice, that they have one or more bills set to automatically pull from their bank accounts, but they have no money in the bank to cover the payment and will face overdraft charges if the payment pulls from their account.  Typically, these are car payments, as many auto loan lenders offer lower rates if the purchaser agrees to set up automatic payments.  Some businesses, like your local gym, may require auto-pay agreements. It seems like a good idea, when one is working.

Add an injury or disability into the mix, though, and it can become your worst nightmare.  Even under the best circumstances, an injured worker that is receiving their time loss compensation benefits – often 60 – 65% of pre-injury wages, or a much smaller percentage if they were a high wage earner and have hit the ceiling of compensation rates – will most certainly not be getting paid on the same schedule as their payroll department was using.  Juggling bills is hard enough with decreased income levels, but the forfeiture of control over the ebb and flow of funds in your bank account can put you in financial peril after an injury.

If you find yourself in the scenario I have described, try contacting your lender or service provider to inquire about making changes to the agreement you signed – or terminating the agreement, if needed – to at least make the drafts from your account occur on a better schedule but, preferably, to take back control of the payments.  You should maintain the ability to make payments to creditors on your own schedule when funds are available.  The auto-draft agreements are a contractual agreement, though, and you may need legal assistance to alter them.  In my experience, though, lenders are usually able to work with their clients to maintain the integrity of their loans.  In the long run, repayment is their goal and facilitating your ability to manage your payments is in their best interest, too.

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 / Foter / CC BY-SA

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DON’T SHOP AT WALMART ON THANKSGIVING OR “BLACK FRIDAY”!

America’s worst employer, Walmart, is at it again.  Last year the company experienced a humiliating backlash for holding in-store food drives with bins for their “hungry” and “needy” Walmart “associates” instead of paying them a living wage.  Almost unbelievably, they are running the same food drives this year!  The effective message of this program?  “Give to your co-workers so we don’t have to.”

Walmart made profits of $16 billion last year.  Their owners have a combined worth of $148.8 billion.  But we taxpayers spend an estimated $6.2 billion a year subsidizing low wages for Walmart workers through federal assistance programs.  And according to a food industry watchdog report, Walmart is a major contributor to the hunger crisis affecting a large segment of the population because of low wages and part-time, no benefits jobs.

Walmart workers don’t want food bins.  As one worker recently said, “we want improved pay and hours so we can buy our own groceries.”  This Thanksgiving season, send a message to Walmart about its outrageous practices:  DON”T SHOP THERE!

 

Photo credit: TenMania

 

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Ports of Tacoma and Seattle urge President to Send Federal Mediators to Resolve PMA-ILWU Contract

Those in the Puget Sound region cannot help but notice the presence of many more cargo ships than usual at anchor in our harbors.  On my commute home from downtown Seattle I pass by Elliott Bay, where giant cargo ships fill every corner.  I can look across to Manchester, across the Sound from West Seattle, and am surprised to see cargo ships at anchor behind Blake Island State Park. 

My favorite local news source, the West Seattle Blog, provided the details: 

It’s a visible effect of an alleged “slowdown” that comes six months into West Coast contract talks between the ILWU, which says it’s “congestion,” and the terminal operators of the Pacific Maritime Association, which accuses the ILWU of “orchestrated job actions.”

On November 21st, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle sent a joint letter to President Obama seeking the assistance of a mediator to resolve the contract disputes, and published the following press release:

CEOs from the ports of Seattle and Tacoma sent a letter today urging President Barack Obama to assign federal mediators to resolve contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.   The two ports together form the third-largest container gateway in North America, representing a critical connection to Asia and Alaska.  (Read the full letter to President Obama.)

Six months without a contract signed.  Perhaps the Ports are right to ask for assistance through a mediator.  The comment stream on the WSB site is evidence that local public opinion varies wildly and feelings run deeply on this topic.

 

Photo credit:  West Seattle Blog

 

Silver Buildings: New Buildings for Older People

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.nytimes.com

Today’s post is shared from nytimes.com/

SAN FRANCISCO — I HEARD about the new building for months before I saw it. Part of a leading medical center, its green architecture and design were getting a lot of attention, as was its integration of top-notch modern medicine with health and wellness spaces inspired by cultures from around the world. My father’s doctor had moved there, and driving to his appointment we looked forward to experiencing the cutting-edge new building firsthand.

Outside, I unloaded the walker and led my 82-year-old father through the sliding glass doors. Inside, there was a single bench made of recycled materials. I noticed it didn’t have the arm supports that a frail elderly person requires to safely sit down and get back up. It was a long trek to the right clinic and I was double-parked outside. Helping my father onto the bench, I said, “Wait here,” and hoped he would remember to do so long enough for me to park and return.

He nodded. We were used to this. It happened almost everywhere we went: at restaurants, the bank, the airport, department stores. Many of these places — our historic city hall, with its wide steps and renovated dome, the futuristic movie theater and the new clinic — were gorgeous.

The problem was that not one of them was set up to facilitate access by someone like my father.

That may have been intentional. A few years earlier, I’d heard about a new community center where the older…

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Ladies of Charity

Kim Bobo

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Mary Domer heads the local chapter of the Ladies of Charity and just chaired the national conference held in Milwaukee.  She recruited Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Workers Justice and author of Wage Theft in America to speak to the assembly. Kim’s presentation reminded us of the disparities of wealth in America and how that wage gap is increasing, in some measure because of wage theft.  Among the gems garnered from Kim’s presentation

  • If your employer tells you you are an independent contractor, you’re probably not.
  • Methods of “contingency employment” are on the increase including ever increasing temporary workers, seasonal workers and permanent “part time” workers.
  • Three-quarters of low wage workers don’t get overtime.  These include folks who can’t do all the work needed in 40 hours, but who would be fired if they didn’t perform all the work needed, daycare workers who have to stay off the clock and wait for parents to arrive, and “off the clock” work done in set up and clean up.  The most egregious examples were McDonalds workers told by their managers to clock out and sit and wait in the car until they were needed when more customers arrived.

Kim noted that many “tip” workers do not receive any of the tips, reminding us to either ask the question about whether the worker would receive a tip paid for by credit card or alternatively to simply pay in cash.  She noted an average of $2,600 lost average per year for low wage workers including janitors, drivers, landscapers, care workers.

Despite these negative trends, Kim suggested five ways in which we can all support low wage workers.

  1. Support campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
  2. Help with legislation and ordinances on paid sick days (40 million low wage workers have no paid sick days).
  3. Push Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other employers to increase their wages.  (She noted Wal-Mart does pay well in Europe so they have the capability when they are forced to do so.  Astoundingly, she noted six members of the Walton family possess a significant portion of the wealth in America.)
  4. Support legislation to provide a clear paystub to all employees.  (Many are being paid by debit cards where they have to actually pay money to their employers to get paid.)
  5. Honor employers who pay well through “a living wage certification program” in each of our communities.

 Through these methods and many more, we can all be men and Ladies of Charity.

 

Published by Causey Law Firm