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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.

 

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Jane E. Dale has Joined the Causey Law Firm Team

Jane E. Dale has joined the Causey Law Firm litigation team and, along with attorney Brian Wright, will represent our clients in the full range of workers’ compensation system cases we handle. Jane has had extensive trial experience in civil and criminal cases with a private practitioner on the Olympic Peninsula and subsequently as a public defender. She then began practicing in workers’ compensation, where she found her true calling, representing injured and disabled claimants against the Department of Labor & Industries and self- insured employers. She has gained substantial experience litigating cases at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals and trying those cases at the superior court level.

Jane earned a business degree from the University of Washington, and then a JD from Seattle University School of Law, where she graduated cum laude. She was labeled a “Rising Star” attorney by Super Lawyers magazine in 2010. 

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Major Asbestos Violations Result in Fines for Two WA Companies

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited two employers for violations that exposed workers to asbestos during the demolition of a Seattle apartment building. Asbestos can cause cancer and other fatal illnesses.

An L&I investigation into the Seattle project found a total of 19 willful and serious safety and health violations. As a result, together the businesses have been fined a total of $379,100.

Partners Construction Inc., of Federal Way, was cited for a total of 14 willful and serious violations and fined $291,950. Asbestos Construction Management Inc., of Bonney Lake, was fined $87,150 for five willful and serious violations.

The violations were for asbestos exposure to workers, asbestos debris left on site and other violations that occurred during demolition of an apartment building in the Fremont neighborhood. The three-story, five-unit apartment building was originally constructed with “popcorn” ceilings, a white substance containing asbestos fibers, as well as asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

Asbestos is an extremely hazardous material that can lead to asbestosis, a potentially fatal disease, as well as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Removal of asbestos-containing building materials must be done by a certified abatement contractor who follows safety and health rules to protect workers and the public from exposure to asbestos. The contractor must also ensure proper removal and disposal of the asbestos materials.

Partners Construction Inc., a certified asbestos abatement contractor at the time, was hired by the building owner to remove the asbestos before the apartment building was demolished.

After several weeks, Partners provided the building owner with a letter of completion indicating that all asbestos had been removed. When L&I inspectors responded to a worker complaint, the inspectors found that the removal work had not been done and approximately 5,400 square feet of popcorn ceiling remained throughout, as well as asbestos sheet vinyl flooring.

Partners came back to finish the abatement work; however, due to a prior history of willful violations, L&I was in the process of revoking Partners’ certification to do asbestos abatement work. In May, Partners was decertified and went out of business.

A new company, Asbestos Construction Management Inc. (ACM), owned by a family member of the Partners owner, took over the job using essentially the same workers and certified asbestos supervisor as Partners, and sharing the same equipment.

A subsequent L&I inspection of ACM found many of the same violations as in the Partners’ inspection. L&I has initiated decertification action against ACM.

The employers have 15 business days to appeal the citation.

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 citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

 Photo credit: avlxyz / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Olympia, WA Roofing Company Cited 7th Time for Safety Violations

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited an Olympia roofing company for the seventh time in recent years for safety violations involving fall protection for roofers.

The Roof Doctor Inc., was cited for six willful violations and one serious violation, with total proposed penalties of $219,600. Each of the six willful violations carries a penalty of $36,000, and the serious violation has a penalty of $3,600.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. 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.

“Falls from elevation are the leading cause of Washington’s worker fatalities and immediate hospitalizations, and they are fully preventable,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “The tragedy, pain and suffering from these incidents are completely unnecessary for the workers’ families and friends and our communities.”

The Roof Doctor inspection began on April 11 when an L&I safety compliance officer observed employees working on a rooftop at an Olympia-area residence without proper fall protection equipment. The investigation found that five workers were exposed to falls from as high as 17 feet while engaged in various roofing activities.

The employer has appealed the citation. The appeal will be heard by the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, an independent state agency separate from L&I.

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.

 Photo credit: Jorbasa / Foter / CC BY-ND

Former workers, whistleblowers shed light on nuclear site safety setbacks

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

RICHLAND, Wash. – On the banks of the Columbia River, miles of open land sit undeveloped behind barbed wire fences. A handful of mysterious structures dot the landscape, remnants from the early days of the Cold War. Passing by the old Hanford nuclear production complex can feel like a journey into the past.

Known simply as Hanford, workers here produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic bomb and for many of the nation’s current nuclear warheads. The site was first developed in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project and ceased plutonium production nearly 50 years later, leaving behind 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste. Spanning 586 square miles, it is now ground zero for the largest cleanup project in America.

For 27 years, Mike Geffre was part of that effort, working in an area known as the tank farms: 177 massive underground storage tanks, which hold up to 1 million gallons each of the country’s most toxic nuclear waste. 

A crack in the shell

First built in the 1940s, many of the original single-shell tanks leaked and contaminated the local groundwater. But starting in the 1960s, the federal government built stronger double-shell tanks that were supposed to hold the waste securely until it could be treated and sent to a deep geological repository for final keeping. Geffre, who maintained instruments used to monitor chemical and radioactive waste, spent much of his time looking for leaks in the supposedly unleakable tanks.  

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Florida Statute Deeming Workers’ Compensation an Exclusive Remedy Declared Unconstitutional by 11th Circuit Trial Court

Today’s post was shared by Workers Comp News and comes from www.jdsupra.com

On Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 11th Circuit Trial Judge Jorge E. Cueto entered a Summary Final Judgment Order declaring the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) unconstitutional. In Julio Cortes v. Velda Farms LLC (Case No. 2011-13661-CA-25 in Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County; also captioned Florida Workers’ Advocates, Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group, Elsa Padgett v. State of Florida, Office of the Attorney General), petitioners asked the court to decide if injured workers should have the right to pursue damages outside of the workers’ compensation system, thereby negating the exclusive remedy principle. Judge Cueto agreed and further stated that the current workers’ compensation law did not provide adequate benefits compared with the tort system. Petitioners included Florida Workers’ Advocates (FWA) and the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG). WILG is a national organization of attorneys representing injured workers. FWA is an organization of attorneys representing injured workers in Florida.

The complaint for damages was originally brought by an employee against an employer based on the alleged negligence of the employer. The affirmative defense of workers’ compensation immunity under Fla. Stat. §440.11 was timely raised. The complaint was later amended to add Count IV, seeking declaratory relief that Fla. Stat. §440.11 (the exclusive remedy…

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Communication Towers

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.osha.gov

Prior to the 1980s, communication and broadcast tower erection, servicing and maintenance was a very small and highly specialized industry. Over the past 30 years, the growing demand for wireless and broadcast communications has spurred a dramatic increase in communication tower construction and maintenance.

In order to erect or maintain communication towers, employees regularly climb towers, using fixed ladders, support structures or step bolts, from 100 feet to heights in excess of 1000 or 2000 feet. Employees climb towers throughout the year, including during inclement weather conditions.

Some of the more frequently encountered hazards include:

  • Falls from great heights
  • Electrical hazards
  • Hazards associated with hoisting personnel and equipment with base-mounted drum hoists
  • Inclement weather
  • Falling object hazards
  • Equipment failure
  • Structural collapse of towers

In 2013, OSHA recorded a total number of 13 communication tower-related fatalities. In the first half of 2014, there have already been nine fatalities at communication tower worksites. This represents a significant increase in fatalities and injuries from previous years, and OSHA is concerned at this trend. OSHA is working with industry stakeholders to identify the causes of these injuries and fatalities, and to reduce the risks faced by employees in the communication tower industry.

Compliance Assistance

  • No more falling workers. OSHA focuses on protecting cell tower employees after increase in worksite fatalities….

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In Cities Across the Country, Opportunity is Making a Comeback

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

New York City just became the most recent city in the nation to answer President Obama’s call to raise wages for working families.

Last Tuesday, alongside Labor Secretary Perez, I signed an executive order immediately raising our living wage to $13.13. Workers at companies receiving more than $1 million in City subsidy will benefit from the new living wage, building on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act passed into law by the City Council in 2012. And because we expanded the universe of workers affected by the law to include tenants at City-backed projects, some of our lowest paid New Yorkers—fast food workers and retail workers—will finally earn a wage that can support a family. All told, we estimate the provision will cover up to 18,000 workers over the next five years.

We came into office this past January with a mandate and an agenda to confront inequality. We pledged to expand paid sick leave for more New Yorkers—and working in partnership with the New York City Council we did, reaching a half million more people. We pledged an ambitious affordable housing plan, and after-school programs and full-day pre-K that give children opportunity and help parent work—and we’ve launched each of them successfully. Next year, I intend to work alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass a $10.10 minimum wage for New York State, with a provision to allow cities like ours, where the cost of living is high, to raise the minimum wage even higher.

And when…

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Published by Causey Law Firm