Amazon to hire 5,000 at-home workers in massive hiring binge

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.wbir.com.

Editor’s Note: work-from-home, particularly on a large scale, can make for interesting workers’ compensation coverage questions. – kc

Amazon announced Thursday it plans to add 30,000 part-time positions in the U.S. over the next year, part of a massive hiring binge by the online retailing giant.

The part-time hiring includes 5,000 jobs in Virtual Customer Service, which would allow employees to work as a customer service agent from home. The remaining 25,000 would be at Amazon warehouses. Any part-time employees who work 20 hours or more a week are also eligible for benefits.

"There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they’re a military spouse, a college student, or a parent — and we’re happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live,” said Tom Weiland, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide customer service, in a statement.

It’s not clear how many warehouse jobs will be coming to Tennessee, but the state has one of Amazon’s largest shipping footprints with multiple warehouses around both Nashville and Chattanooga.

The part-time plan is part of a larger hiring spree by Amazon. In January, the company said it would add 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. with full benefits over the next 18 months. Most positions will be filled at fulfillment centers and in new fields including cloud technology and machine learning.

Amazon has bolstered its workforce over the last several years. In 2011, Amazon had more than 56,000 full- and part-time employees. By the end of its 2016 fiscal year, that number swelled to more than…

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Dirty Tricks Lead To Reduced Benefits In Cuomo’s New Budget

Today’s post is shared from Workers’ Law Watch, written by Catherine Stanton of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. 

An  additional comment: many of the pressures from the business community that produced this disaster in New York are alive and well in the State of Washington. Brian Wright and his team are actively involved, with others in our community, in legislative work to protect the rights of all injured workers in Washington. – Jay Causey

Governor Cuomo signed a new budget this week. While many extolled his progressive agenda that included free college tuition for the middle class, renewing the millionaire’s tax, and giving a tax break on dues for union members, he also quietly and without much fanfare in the news media, struck a huge blow to injured workers. 

Unfortunately for those members of our society who no longer are able to work as a result of an injury, or sustained a life altering injury while on the job, their benefits became part of a horse-trade in Albany much to their detriment. Governor Cuomo, anxious to get his big publicity items in the budget in case he seeks higher office, seems to have used Workers’ Compensation as a bargaining chip. 

The Business Council circulated fake facts blaming injured workers’ benefits for the high cost of doing business in the state, when in reality employer costs nationwide for Workers’ Compensation are at their lowest levels in 35 years.  Locally, Workers’ Compensation costs in New York have declined dramatically as well; compensation is only a small portion of employer costs and is extremely profitable for insurers. The Business Council seems to have a number of members with strong ties to the insurance industry, which makes their position even further suspect.

In 2007, the Council was successful in lobbying to obtain caps on indemnity benefits and has now continued its assault so that the prior limit on weekly benefits will be further reduced. When caps were first put into place, they did not go into effect until judges determined that injured workers had reached maximum medical improvement and that their conditions could be classified as permanent. This new provision automatically starts the cap after 2½ years, regardless of a person’s abilities or condition, or whether or not he will ever be able to work again or find work that meets medical restrictions. It is up to the injured worker to show that he has not reached maximum medical treatment that the carrier can refute.  

The Business Council has continued its attack by alleging that permanent loss-of-use awards were unfair to the employer. They argue that the prior guidelines were outdated and did not take into consideration new advances in medicine. Again, fake facts! The guidelines are based on range of motion and loss of function after all modalities are exhausted, including new advances in medicine available. As a result, the new law directs the Board to “consult” with a group stacked with pro business and insurance interests, but no representatives of injured workers to “review” the current guidelines with the ultimate goal of reducing benefits. The fact that workers who have permanent life-altering injuries to their arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, and toes have absolutely no say is extremely distressing.

When does this eroding away of Workers’ Compensation benefits end? Two years ago, ProPublica published a series of articles entitled “The Demolition of Workers’ Comp”.  They documented the cutbacks made in many states with disastrous consequences. Their report noted that since 2003, 33 states passed Workers’ Compensation laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult to obtain benefits. New York is part of that list, having enacted laws not once, but twice, since then.

Many believe that reducing benefits to injured workers will force them back to work. Studies have shown that this is another myth perpetuated by the falsehood that injured workers are frauds. What happens in reality is that many injured workers are unable to work and are forced into poverty or have to collect alternate benefits. Social Security Disability benefits, which are paid by the American taxpayers, are generally offset by Workers’ Compensation benefits. Without Workers’ Compensation payable by the insurance carrier, the burden on the taxpayer is larger. Rather than the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier paying for medical treatment, it is put through Medicare. This is known as cost shifting and it affects all of us, as we are the ones who end up paying – and paying dearly.

 

Proposed changes to Iowa workers compensation cruelly target elderly employees

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

Anti-worker changes could be coming to Iowa workers compensation. To me the cruelest reform would be the proposal to end permanent total disability benefits at age 67 and limit workers who are over 67 who become permanently and totally disabled to 150 weeks of benefits. One memorable client of mine demonstrates the callousness of the proposed Iowa reforms.

My client Doris Newkirk was 83 years old when she was injured working as a hostess at Lone Star Steakhouse in west Omaha in June 2006. She was near a bathroom door when a large male co-worker came barreling into the bathroom and caused Doris to fall back and injure multiple parts of her body. Like many retirees, Doris worked because she needed the money. After her injury she was unable to work. Fortunately Doris was able to receive permanent total disability benefits to make up for the income she lost because she wasn’t able to work. Those permanent benefits started in September 2007 and continued for five years and 10 ½ months until her death on July 21, 2013.

If Nebraska law limited those injured over the age of 67 to 150 weeks of permanent total disability benefits, Doris wouldn’t have been paid anything for the last three years of her life. To her credit, Doris travelled from Omaha to Lincoln in her late 80s to testify against similar legislation when it was proposed in Nebraska. According the Business and Labor committee clerk at the time, the state Senator who introduced the bill at the behest of insurance interests made a motion to kill the bill after listening to her testimony.

Workers compensation is a cost of business. But according to CNBC, Iowa has the second lowest cost of doing business in the country. Iowa, like Nebraska, generally ranks well in national surveys of business climate. Iowa’s weakest area when it comes to business climate,  according to CNBC, is quality of workforce. Unlike Nebraska, Iowa lacks vocational rehabilitation for injured workers. If Iowa is looking to reform its workers compensation system, they should consider investing in vocational rehabilitation so injured workers can fully regain their ability to contribute to the economy in Iowa.

Opioid Task Force, Recent Studies, and CDC Opioid Recommendations

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission recently joined many other states (i.e. Massachusetts) in tackling the issue of opioids in the workers’ compensation cases by creating a Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force. The goal of the task force is to “study and recommend solutions for the problems arising from the intersection of the opioid epidemic and related issues in workers’ compensation claims.” According to the Chair, “[o]pioid misuse and addiction are a major public health crisis in this state.” 

As of last June, a study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) noted “noticeable decreases in the amount of opioids prescribed per workers’ compensation claim.” From 2012 – 2014, “the amount of opioids received by injured workers decreased.” In particular, there were “significant reductions in the range of 20 to 31 percent” in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas. 

Additionally last March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain “in response to an epidemic of prescription opioid overdose, which CDC says has been fueled by a quadrupling of sales of opioids since 1999.” 

Currently, the CDC’s recommendations for prescribing opioids for chronic pain outside of active cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care will likely follow these steps:

1.  Non-medication therapy / non-opioid will be preferred for chronic pain.

2.  Before starting opioid therapy for chronic pain, clinicians should establish treatment goals and consider how therapy will be discontinued if benefits do not outweigh risks.

3.  Before starting and periodically during opioid therapy, clinicians should discuss with patients known risks and realistic benefits of opioid therapy. 

Port of Seattle Intern Program – Call to Sponsors

The Port of Seattle recently kicked off a campaign to hire 150 high school and college interns to work at Port of Seattle facilities and for private employers this summer. Because recruiting young people to maritime industries has been challenging, there is a lack of future workers in the pipeline to meet the future demand. These jobs offer competitive pay and benefits, but those who could benefit the most may not be aware these opportunities exist. 

Examples of recent news media coverage about the need for maritime workers included stories by Q13 FOXKNKX and KOMO NEWS.

The Port of Seattle urges businesses in Port-related industries to join in by hosting student workers over the next few months. The Port of Seattle’s Intern Sponsor Program places future leaders with small businesses connected to the port, the waterfront, and local manufacturers.

Photo credit: Port of Seattle

Port of Seattle Effort to Address Urgent Need for Skilled Workers as Current Workers Retire

Port of Seattle opens 150 paid high school and college summer internship slots, expands comprehensive effort to address urgent need for skilled workers as current workers retire.

The Port of Seattle announced their kick off of its 2017 summer intern program with 150 paid roles for high school and college students. The internship program, which tripled the number of positions offered from two years ago, is one element of the Port’s community-based effort to close the labor gap as the Boomer Generation leaves the workforce.

“We need to tackle three fundamental challenges in our economy right now: a coming labor shortfall in skilled trades and Port-related industries, fewer industries creating good paying jobs that support the middle class, and a lack of opportunities in disadvantaged communities,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Port-related industries offer those good paying jobs. We designed our internship program and partnerships to do more to inspire students to explore these industries, learn about skills training and get connected to opportunities.”

In addition to the open roles at the Port, area businesses in the maritime and manufacturing sectors are participating in an expanded pilot program to host and train their own interns. In 2016, companies like Vigor and Status Ceramics partnered with the Port to create additional opportunities for students.

This year, even more companies are encouraged to take part. Participation in the program means the placement of a Port-recruited intern and support in the form of training for intern supervisors, access to youth counselors, and off-site education and enrichment opportunities.

“Some of our students are looking to join the workforce immediately after graduating, and they need to make a living in this rapidly growing region,” said Chris Names of the Aerospace Science and Technology Skill Center program of the Seattle Public Schools. “These jobs can provide the solid skills and industry connections for kids that want to start a career here.”

The Port of Seattle, private employers, and other public sector agencies are applying lessons from the aviation and technology industries that drove students to careers in STEM. Sarah Scherer is managing the recruitment program for the Youth Maritime Collaborative, an organization of maritime industry companies, educational institutions, non-profits, community service providers, and public agencies established to help address the maritime industry’s urgent need for skilled workers.

“The Seattle Maritime Academy welcomes this partnership with the Port of Seattle. Classes at the academy can put students in trades paying around $70,000 a year, well above the state average,” Scherer said. “Our region was built on the skill and vision of an entire generation of workers and we must carry that work forward to keep our region inclusive and competitive.”

“Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Skills Center are excited for this opportunity to collaborate with the Port of Seattle and our other partners in the Youth Maritime Collaborative to help prepare our students for careers in the maritime industry,” said Dan Golosman, Principal of the Seattle Skills Center. “With thousands of job openings predicted in the next five years in maritime manufacturing and transportation and logistics, we need to provide opportunities for training that will prepare our students for these careers. Whether our students go straight into a job right after high school, continue into post-secondary education, or complete post-graduate work, the Career and Technical Education training we can provide through partnerships like the Youth Maritime Collaborative will help prepare students for the careers of the 21st Century.”

On March 30, the Youth Maritime Collaborative hosted an interactive event where those interested in maritime careers could meet potential employers and explore a variety of opportunities in the field. The event allowed participants to learn about and experience:

  • marine safety
  • cold water survival techniques without getting wet
  • some seamanship skills like knot tying and line handling
  • the science of oil spills
  • oceanography
  • hydrography and nautical charting
  • commerical diving
  • a research submarine
  • USCG damage control simulator
  • bridge and engine room simulations
  • boat tours

The Port supports year-round workforce and career development programs with youth and adults. In addition to youth career exploration events, the Port supports programs with local private employers and unions to improve career pathways for airport workers looking to take on more challenging and higher wage work, and is working to increase adult referrals to pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and union trades job opportunities through a trades partnership with local governments and nonprofits.

 Photo credit: Port of Seattle

Agriculture Labor Law Training Offered by WA Dept. of Labor and Industries

The WA Department of Labor and Industries has announced labor law training for employers in April, including as a topic “workers’ compensation claims.” While this notice of training is directed to employers that hire migrant workers under H-2A visas, it is interesting to note that Washington State provides workers’ compensation coverage to injured workers regardless of their immigration status.  Non-documented injured workers receive the full complement of benefits under our system, although with wrinkles that can be manipulated by the employer or claims manager to limit benefits. 

The full text of the training announcement follows:

Agricultural supervisors and crew bosses who have the right training play an important role in ensuring that employers who hire migrant, seasonal and foreign workers with H-2A visas are following the law.

Training on state and federal labor laws will be offered in Spanish and English at labor laws forums in Yakima on April 26 and Wenatchee on April 27.

The forums are sponsored by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, the Washington Employment Security Department and the U. S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

The free half-day trainings cover wage and hour requirements, workplace safety and health regulations, transportation and housing, workers’ compensation claims and more.

Space is limited, so preregistration is recommended. For more information or to register, go to:

April 26 – Yakima – Spanish

April 26 –Yakima – English 

April 27 – Wenatchee- Spanish

April 27 – Wenatchee – English 

For more information, contact Fabiola Gonzalez at 360-902-5419.

 

Photo credit: jaci XIII via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Republicans Just Made It Easier For Employers To Hide Workplace Injuries

Today’s post was shared by Jay Causey and comes from www.huffingtonpost.com.

They used an arcane procedural maneuver to repeal a significant safety regulation issued by the Obama administration.

WASHINGTON ― The Republican-led Congress moved to dismantle yet another corporate regulation on Wednesday, in a move that safety experts say will make it easier for employers to hide serious workplace injuries from the government.

The Senate voted 50-48 to strike down a rule issued late in Barack Obama’s presidency that requires large employers to keep an ongoing record of health and safety incidents. The Obama administration issued the rule in an effort to solidify what it considered long-standing policy at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

By doing away with the rule, Republicans are effectively cutting down the length of time that employers in dangerous industries are required to keep injury records ― from five years to just six months. Former OSHA officials say that doesn’t provide enough time to identify recurring problems with particular employers or industries.

They also say the change gives unscrupulous employers little incentive to keep an accurate log of injuries, since it will be more difficult for them to be penalized for not doing so. When employers have a track record of such injuries, it can lead to higher workers’ compensation costs and more government scrutiny.

“This will give license to employers to keep fraudulent records and to willfully violate the law with impunity,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA policy adviser now with the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers.

Read the full story here.

Photo credit: Mel1st via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Boeing Rolls Out 737 MAX 9

On March 7th, Boeing rolled out of their Renton, WA factory the first ever 737 MAX 9, the largest member of the 737 MAX family. With 16 more seats than the popular 737 MAX 8 plus more range, flexibility and lower trip costs than the competition, the 737 MAX 9 will be used by airlines to grow while maintaining maximum profitability.

The 737 MAX 9 now begins system checks, fueling and engine runs on the flight line. Once completed, the airplane will begin flight testing — the final phase of verification of the operational characteristics and overall performance of a new airplane.

Learn more about the 737 MAX 9 >

 

PBS: California Reports Thousands of Workers Exposed to Elevated Lead Levels

The highest lead levels were found in the blood of people who work with guns and ammunition, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

More than 6,000 California workers in munitions, manufacturing and other industries have elevated levels of lead in their blood that could cause serious health problems, according to a recent report from the state’s public health agency.

The report, containing the results of tests conducted between 2012 and 2014, comes as the state’s workplace health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, is considering a major update of its safety standards for workplace lead exposure for the first time in decades. The current standards are based on 35-year-old medical findings, which at the time did not recognize the dangers of even low-level exposure to lead. More recent science shows chronic, low-level lead exposure can cause lasting harm.

“It doesn’t surprise me. This is a huge problem,” said Doug Parker, executive director of Worksafe, a worker health and safety advocacy organization based in Oakland. “Clearly, there haven’t been adequate actions taken” by some employers, he said.

READ MORE: 7 things you didn’t know about lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element. The soft gray metal and its various compounds have been used in many products, including pipes, paint, batteries, ammunition, industrial equipment and gasoline. Workers can be exposed to lead in the form of dust, either inhaled or swallowed, or by handling lead-tainted items.

Most public health actions have focused on protecting children from lead exposure and quickly treating those who are exposed, since the metal can severely impair their development.

But adults also can face serious health problems from lead exposure, including heart disease, reproductive problems, cognitive difficulties and kidney failure. Some workers exposed to lead dust in the workplace have unwittingly carried it home on their clothes, exposing their families to it.

The authors of the report examined data from the California Occupational Blood Lead Registry, which tracks workplace exposures. From 2012 to 2014, 38,440 workers had their blood tested for lead, and 6,051 workers were identified with an elevated level of 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter (about 3.3 ounces) of blood. Most of these workers were men between the ages of 20 and 59 and had Hispanic surnames. Many lived in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The California Department of Public Health, which released the report last month, did not make an expert available for comment.

About 14,000 of the workers had two or more blood lead tests, which showed about a fifth of them had elevated blood lead levels, according to the report. More than one elevated blood test suggests chronic exposure linked to health problems, the researchers noted.

[Read the rest of the PBS article here.]

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Published by Causey Wright