Pope Francis: Labor unions are essential to society

Today’s post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from www.americamagazine.org

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Labor unions that protect and defend the dignity of work and the rights of workers continue to have an essential role in society, especially in promoting inclusion, Pope Francis said.

"There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that isn’t reborn every day in the peripheries, that doesn’t transform the rejected stones of the economy into corner stones," the pope said on June 28 during an audience with Italian union leaders.

"There is no justice together if it isn’t together with today’s excluded ones," he told members of the Italian Confederation of Union Workers.

Unions, he said, risk losing their "prophetic nature" when they mimic the very institutions they are called to challenge, he said. "Unions over time have ended up resembling politicians too much, or rather political parties, their language, their style."

Labor unions must guard and protect workers, but also defend the rights of those "outside the walls," particularly those who are retired and the excluded who are "also excluded from rights and democracy."

Pope Francis denounced situations in which children are forced to work rather than being allowed to study, which is the "only good ‘job’ for children."

Turning to one of his frequently voiced concerns, the pope told the union…

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Saying Goodbye and Best Wishes to Reed Johnson

The summer of 2017 has been a time of big changes for Reed Johnson. Reed and his wife, Rachel, were married and Reed has accepted a position with a firm in Portland, Oregon.  Reed & Rachel will be moving to their new home in Oregon soon.

Reed instantly became a part of the Causey Wright family when he joined our firm in 2015. Although we will miss him greatly, we are excited for the opportunities that lie ahead and wish Reed and Rachel all the best going forward.  

Thanks, Reed! We’ll keep in touch!!

Photo credit: Erik Bell

Boeing’s Homage to Women Engineers

I found the video The Boeing Company produced to be quite compelling. Below is Boeing’s release statement and a link to the video. It’s worth watching, and sharing. – Kit

For this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, Boeing is highlighting the need for more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Through its powerful #WomenMakeUsBetter video, which features Boeing engineers reading and reacting to college rejection letters women received in the early 20th century, Boeing demonstrates we have come a long way – but there is still much more to be done.

Today, only 13% of U.S. engineering jobs are held by women. The #WomenMakeUsBetter video features real Boeing employees who are working hard to change that. 

Boeing understands that women bring important perspectives and different skills to the workforce and that girls need role models in careers like engineering. That’s why Boeing focuses on recruiting diverse employees and reaching out to minority and under-represented communities to encourage them to consider a career in STEM.

Last year, Boeing and the Boeing Charitable Trust gave more than $18 million towards community initiatives that encouraged more than 600,000 women to go into STEM fields. 

Watch the full video to see how #WomenMakeUsBetter.  

Photo: Shirley Jackson, the first African-American female Ph.D graduate of MIT who later went on to become the president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a prestigious engineering school. Tip of the hat to Shawn Adderly

Distracted Driving – A Workplace Hazard

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The dangers of distracted driving prompted OSHA to launch a Distracted Driving Initiative in 2010. The initiative’s primary focus has been to encourage employers to prohibit their employees from texting while driving for work.

One in ten traffic-related fatalities involved distraction in 2015 (the most recent year for statistics) according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” These activities include, but are not limited to, texting, using a cell phone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, using a navigation system, and adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

Texting while driving is one of the more dangerous distractions because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Although it is illegal to text while driving in 46 states, many drivers, especially younger drivers, have admitted to texting while driving. According to OSHA, drivers who text while driving focus their attention away from the road for an average for 4.6 seconds, which at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

To learn more about distracted driving and to take the pledge to drive phone-free, visit www.distraction.gov.

Chaos for Workers’ Compensation Programs–The Elimination of Social Security Numbers?

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from workers-compensation.blogspot.com

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security Numbers (SSN) from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The question remains whether the elimination will cause chaos in state workers’ compensation programs since the SSNs have historically been utilized as personal identifiers.

For decades private and public insurance systems have relied upon SSN as a major identifier for benefits delivery and record keeping programs. The change surely is going to increase industry costs for the actual conversion process and create some bumps in the road going forward. Workers and their attorneys may also experience inconvenience in initially obtaining benefits and researching prior records. Furthermore, investigatory resources will suffer the burden additional costs in an attempt to convert information and have it readily available on demand. A critical issue remains for lawyers who handle this data and their ethical responsibility to maintain confidentiality.

CMS has rationalized that the new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019. Today, CMS kicks-off a multi-faceted…

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Opioids And Doctor Choice

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said in 2008 that “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” In the context of opioids and workers compensation this could mean reforms to workers compensation systems beyond drug formularies If solving the opioid crisis means limiting the number of doctors who can prescribe opioids, then there will be fewer doctors who will treat workers compensation cases.

Additional licensure and certifications aren’t unheard of in the world of occupational health. In 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented a new rule that only doctors on their registry can perform DOT Physical Examinations for truckers and other professional drivers. This reduced the number of doctors who can perform those examinations. 

When I testified on LB 408, a bill that would have implemented drug formularies for opioids under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, some doctors were testifying that there was little training in regards to prescribing opioids. Though an opioid prescription registry like the DOT examination registry wasn’t proposed, you could certainly see it proposed as a solution to the opioid problem.

By limiting the numbers of doctor who handle workers’ compensation claims through additional licensing requirements, injured employees will have fewer choices for medical treatment and are more likely to have their employer control their care.

Evidence shows that the workers compensation system has made some contribution to the opioid crisis. According to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics over 3.5 million employees were injured at work. Half of those injuries required the employee to miss sometime from work. A study of employees in 25 states done by the Workers Compensation Research Institute revealed that 55 to 85 percent of employees who missed at least one week of work were prescribed at least one opioid prescription.

When I testified on LB 408 the consensus among the doctors testifying on the legislation was that injured workers were more vulnerable to narcotic addiction than other patients who are prescribed narcotic pain medication. Scientific studies give some credence to these conclusions. Workers compensation claims can cause economic insecurity. According to an article in Scientific America, Addiction rates for opioids are 3.4 times higher for those with incomes under $20,000 per year than they are for employees making more than 50,000 per year.

But that article also shared studies that state that pain pill prescriptions are not driving the opioid epidemic. Patients with pre-existing addiction issues are more likely to become addicted to opioids and 75 percent of those who develop opioids start taking opioids in a non-prescribed manner. Furthermore, only 12 to 13 percent of ER patients who are treated for opioid overdoses are chronic pain patients.

Workers’ Compensation is traditionally an area of the law that is controlled by the states. Regulation of drugs is generally an area reserved for the federal government. Any laws imposing additional hurdles or requirements upon doctors who prescribe opioid drugs may have to come from the federal government.

Fear of Immigration Raids May Harm Workplace Rights

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.nelp.org

Editor’s Note: Our WA State workers’ compensation system allows benefits to be provided to workers injured on the job without verification of immigration status. – kc

The Trump administration’s increased immigration enforcement could have an unintended consequence: reduced willingness to report workplace rights violations.

Getting workers to come forward about workplace rights violations has “always been an issue,” Adrienne DerVartanian, director of immigration and labor rights at Farmworker Justice, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 23. But the “current environment, with a real focus on immigration enforcement and raids,” has created an “increase in the level of fear and concerns,” she said.

With the highest rates of wage and hour violations among undocumented immigrants—particularly women—employer threats of calls to Immigration and Customs Enforcement are “very strong,” Haeyoung Yoon, director of strategic partnerships at the National Employment Law Project, said Feb. 23.

“Even prior to Trump’s immigration policies, there was a culture of fear in our workplaces across the country,” Yoon said. Employers have been known to lob threats to call ICE if workers complain, Yoon said. And now that nearly every undocumented immigrant is subject to enforcement, “there’s greater fear,” she said.

NELP is working on pressuring state labor agencies to adopt policies to “act very swiftly when they hear of employers engaging in any kind of retaliatory actionֿ,” Yoon said. Reminding employers that there are consequences for…

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Port of Tacoma, WA Pier 4 Reconfiguration Update

The Northwest Seaport Alliance provided the following update of the South Harbor Pier 4 project to expand and fortify the pier to receive the new megaships. The project employs workers in the construction trades and, once completed, will lead to greater cargo coming through the port, potentially increasing longshore and harbor worker employment.

The Pier 4 reconfiguration is taking shape on the General Central Peninsula in the South Harbor. Crews are working heavily on pier construction and installing underground utilities, including electrical, communication, sewer and stormwater treatment.

Since awarding the contract to Manson Construction Company and launching the first phase of the project in May 2016, the 1,724-foot pier at the Port of Tacoma nears its halfway mark.

In February, Manson wrapped up the first phase of the pile driving, which set up the foundation for the structure that will be capable of serving two 18,000-TEU container ships once completed.

“Bigger ships require bigger cranes, and bigger cranes require a stronger foundation to evenly distribute the load,” said Trevor Thornsley, senior project manager for the Port of Tacoma. “Building the pier is all about providing enough support to handle the heavy cranes and the heavy load of the trucks, straddle carriers and the equipment that run on the pier.”

Each pile, varying from 70 to 170 feet in length, is precisely driven underwater in a neat row formation. The segments are then bound together with rebar and concrete to create a thick platform called a pile cap. Once pile caps are built, the crew will place 25-foot-wide deck panels between the caps and fill any gaps with more concrete. At the end of the project, the pier will be covered with 3 to 6 inches of pavement.

The second phase of pile driving is slated to resume in July. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2018. 

Watch a video of the latest progress and learn more about the Pier 4 project.

In a related post, the Northwest Seaport Alliance reported on the potential for additional crane purchases for Pier 4:

The Managing Members will consider purchasing four additional cranes from Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) in China at their June 6 special joint meeting. The Managing Members approved the purchase of the first four super post-Panamax container cranes in 2016 to handle larger ships. If the additional cranes are approved, all eight cranes are expected to arrive in spring 2018 at South Harbor’s Pier 4, where it is currently undergoing reconfiguration improvements.

Download and watch a video of the June 6 meeting here.

Photo credit: Northwest Seaport Alliance

 

Port Commissioners Approve Funding for Railroad

$600,000 will go to grade separation project in Kent, WA, easing rail-related congestion.

The Port of Seattle Commission has approved transportation funding for a grade separation project in Kent, WA. The South 228th Street project will help traffic flow delayed by railroad crossings. The project improves regional connections between thousands of businesses, employers and 40 million square feet of warehouse and industrial space.The $595,000 in funding contributes to an overall project cost of $25 million.

The Port of Seattle recognizes the need to keep freight, and all other traffic, moving throughout our region,” said Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Grade separations like these are critical to remove traffic bottle necks, especially areas in the Kent Valley that handle the second largest freight and cargo volumes on the West Coast.

“The success of both the Port of Seattle and the Kent Valley’s robust manufacturing, warehouse and distribution activity depends upon safe, reliable, timely connections to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, and increasingly to Sea-Tac Airport,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. “Kent’s South 228th Street has been designated as a key freight route, attracting Port customers who value timely access. The elimination of the chokepoint at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing will help ensure our region’s future as a premier manufacturing and distribution center of world-wide importance.”

Source: Port of Seattle, Photo: City of Kent, WA

Published by Causey Wright