Hot Weather Now a Major Cause of Illness and Death for U.S. Workers

BY MARK GRUENBERG

Hot weather becomes major cause of illness, death for U.S. workers“2015 Lineman’s Rodeo 05012015 017” by City of Marietta, GA is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Hot weather now a major cause of illness and death for U.S. workers.

TUCSON, Ariz. (PAI)—Four years ago, on a 95-degree afternoon in Tucson, Ariz., a worker was building a platform for an outdoor concert. He hasn’t worked since.

The worker, whose name advocates are withholding because he both fears retribution and being barred from future jobs was putting heavy 4’x 8’ decks up after lunch, says Shannon Foley, a safety and health activist in the southern Arizona city. Then he collapsed.

The extreme heat felled him. Paramedics attended to him, and later sent him home, she reported. But he had suffered kidney damage, “and has not recovered and returned fully to work. He’s had serious financial issues ever since,” said Foley, a member of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 415. Her local includes stage builders.

The Arizonan is just one victim of a largely ignored workplace danger, heat, say Tucson workers and activists, convened August 19 by the labor-backed National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).

It’s particularly acute in Arizona, the 10th hottest state, studies show. “In Phoenix, in summer, it’s 95 degrees at 6 am,” says Foley. Daytime temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson regularly top 100 degrees in the summer, records add. That heat takes a big toll on workers.

“Injuries and illnesses due to heat are not properly reported,” says Jessica Martinez, NACOSH’s co-executive director. Often, they’re put down to other causes, she adds. “People are dying every day, and they’re not attributing it to heat,” says Foley.

The problem particularly hits workers of color, Martinez noted. She cited a National Public Radio investigation, released August 17, showing Hispanic-named workers account for 17% of all U.S. workers, and one-third of those felled by excessive heat.

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In the Coal Mines, Workers Are Dying to Make a Living

Mining companies increasingly rely on cheaper contractors who face longer hours and higher risk of accidents.

By KARI LYDERSEN 

Trebr Lenich’s friends pay tribute at his grave. Exhausted after weeklong overnight shifts, Lenich died in a car accident in 2017. PHOTO COURTESY OF TERESA LENICH

Trebr Lenich always called his mother before his drive home from overnight shifts at Mine No. 1, operated by Hamilton County Coal in Hamilton County, Ill. The call she answered the morning of Aug. 14, 2017, worried her. 

“He said, ​‘Mom, I am just so exhausted, so wore out,’ ” Teresa Lenich says. 

Her son routinely worked long hours on consecutive days. That day, he never made it home.

Coworkers following Trebr said his driving was erratic and suspected he was falling asleep, Teresa says. Heading back to the West Frankfort home he shared with his parents, girlfriend and baby daughter, Trebr drove into a ditch and hit an embankment. According to the sheriff’s report, his engine then caught fire. 

Like many young miners, Trebr was employed through a contracting company that provides temporary workers for mines with no promise that they’ll be hired on permanently.

This staffing structure — and the disappearance of labor unions from Illinois mines — has made work less safe and more grueling for miners, according to advocates and multiple studies. Without job security, temporary workers are reluctant to complain about potentially unsafe conditions (including long work hours) and to report accidents. And because temporary workers may have inadequate experience in a particular mine, they might not understand that mine’s specific risks.

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Capitol Hill Bomb Threat Suggests Jan. 6 Siege Was a Beta Test

By Adele M. Stan

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger addresses reporters after the capture of a North Carolina man who threatened to blow up the U.S. Capitol complex. (Screen shot from C-SPAN)

Commentary

Although it didn’t succeed in shutting down the certification of the Electoral College votes in the free and fair 2020 presidential election, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol was, in its own way, a success nonetheless in its likely inspiration for events such as today’s threatened bombing of the Capitol complex.

The sort of incitement conducted by the planners of numerous so-called Stop the Steal rallies conducted in Washington, D.C., and state capitals across the country in the lead-up to the insurrection amount to what scholars call “stochastic terrorism.” It’s the kind that takes place when a person of influence in a particular community either calls for violence or suggests that a grievance worthy of a violent response has taken place—like, say, the false claim that a presidential election was stolen from the rightful winner—in the hope that the more unhinged or gullible of their followers may read such rhetoric as a prompt to conduct violence.

So it is hardly surprising that the North Carolina man brought into custody today for threatening to blow up the Capitol complex with a bomb he claimed to have in the truck he parked in front of the Library of Congress, appears to have taken part in several so-called Stop the Steal rallies, according to Jared Holt of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Those were the rallies of Trump supporters who were convinced by the former president’s lie that the result of the 2020 election was somehow illegitimate.

“The revolution is on, it’s here, it’s today,” the suspect said in a Facebook livestream this morning, demanding that Joe Biden resign the presidency.

After the would-be bomber began livestreaming his threat-making as he ranted from his truck, Facebook shut down his account, but not before Holt had a look at his social media, where the suspect posted about his participation in the rallies organized by far-right operative Ali Alexander and promoted by former White House aide Steve Bannon on the latter’s “War Room” podcast.

As we’ve been saying for a while at Right Wing Watch, Jan. 6 looked like a beta test for future violence to be directed at institutions of the U.S. government. Since then, we learned from the House select committee studying the insurrection, the insurrectionists of Jan. 6 came quite close to bagging their desired quarry, namely then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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A New App Is Taking Labor Unions Out of Union Organizing

Unit is among several new digital platforms that aim to ease the unionization process and empower workers to stand up to their bosses, but some union organizers have their doubts.

By Lauren Kaori Gurley

Union members
https://video-images.vice.com/articles/61142b446e90e6009b027e0a/lede/1628711751901-gettyimages-1232479226.jpeg

PHOTO BY LOIC VENANCE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In July, a group of cell tower technicians who work for an AT&T contractor in the Philadelphia area approached the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for help unionizing. The technicians’ wages were stagnant, they didn’t receive sick days, and had been urinating and defecating in trash bags and water bottles because their contractor wouldn’t provide port-a-potties. 

The IBEW never responded to the technicians—so they took a chance on a new startup for union organizing called Unit, which launched in December 2020 with $1.4 million in funding from various venture capital firms. Unit is “a platform that helps you and your coworkers form a labor union” by offering a set of tools, including a web app and a team of advisors that help clients facilitate and expedite the unionization process. It is designed to help with everything from inviting coworkers to join and sign union authorization cards, certifying the union, and negotiating a union contract with the aid of lawyers, accountants, and union organizers. Notably, it allows workers to do this as an independent union, without the aid of an established or nationally recognized union. 

The AT&T technicians aren’t far along in the unionization process, but one of the lead worker organizers says Unit has been a big help so far. “It’s been great,” the technician told Motherboard. “They helped me set up meetings with workers to explain the unionization process, provided legal advice, and gave us access to digital union authorization cards. You can send a text and the person follows the link, and they sign the digital card. It’s so easy.”

The technician told Motherboard that the main benefit of joining Unit is that the dues are less than many national unions charge. “Unit only takes 0.8 percent of your income. Most unions take a lot more,” he said. 

Workers begin paying fees to Unit after they ratify their first contract, which often includes pay increases that are larger than union dues. 

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The Nabisco Workers Who Make Your Oreos And Ritz Crackers Are On Strike

Nabisco parent company Mondelez wants to do away with workers’ premium pay rates for weekends and long shifts.

No justice, no sweets.
No justice, no sweets.

Hundreds of workers who make and deliver Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers have gone on strike in a massive showdown with Nabisco parent company Mondelez.

The work stoppage and 24-hour picket lines began at a production facility in Portland, Oregon, last week and have now spread to a distribution hub in Aurora, Colorado, and another production facility in Richmond, Virginia. The workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with Mondelez on new contracts.

Workers and union representatives say the strike follows years of frustration with Mondelez, which was created in 2012 when Nabisco products were spun off from Kraft Foods. Mondelez is demanding changes to pay and health care coverage that would undermine what have long been solid, middle-class production and trucking jobs, they say.

“We’re not on strike to secure huge gains. We’re on strike to keep what we’ve already got,” said Cameron Taylor, the business agent at BCTGM Local 364, which represents workers at the Portland plant. “The job they want to give us wouldn’t even be worth fighting for.”

Taylor said Mondelez wants to ditch the premium pay system that’s long been in place and that guarantees time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours a day, time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays, and double time for working on Sundays. Instead, workers would be paid “straight time” until they hit a full 40-hours, regardless of what days they work or how long those days last.

Mondelez spokesperson Laurie Guzzinati said the company has proposed an “alternative work schedule” for some employees, who would work 12-hour shifts three or four days a week. The schedule would offer a three-day weekend every other week, Guzzinati said, while helping the company meet production on its most high-demand products.

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‘Everyone Wants a Good Job’: The Texas Unions Fighting for a Green New Deal

“The Green New Deal framework is not just about addressing the climate crisis. It’s about building an economy and a society which work for all of us.”

By Dharna Noor

https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/…/208049a5a7aafc2d88c8d3915e56c29f.jpg

The myth that climate action kills jobs is dying. Study after study shows that serious environmental policy spurs job creation. Most recently, a July report found that meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals could create 8 million positions globally by 2050.

Organized labor still opposes some environmental policies, though, particularly building trade unions looking to protect their members’ jobs in the fossil fuel industry. The sector isn’t a great employer, with oil and gas companies slashing thousands of non-unionized workers in recent years. But by and large, jobs in coal, oil, and gas pay more than those in clean power and are more frequently unionized.

But labor and climate organizers are aiming to ease fossil fuel workers’ concerns, with an increasing push to make sure the climate jobs of the future are unionized and pay as well as their fossil fuel counterparts. They’re also putting the need to protect workers at the forefront, rather than treating labor as an afterthought. The growing climate-labor movement could be the key to making sure decarbonization actually happens in a speedy and fair manner, and it’s making inroads in some surprising places.

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Study: Food Assistance Falls Far Short of Meeting the Needs of America’s Food Insecure

By Joan McCarter

A volunteer loads food into the trunk of vehicles during a ''Let's Feed L.A. County'' drive thru food distribution by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the office of Supervisor Hilda Solis on Friday, April 23, 2021, in Rosemead, California. (Ringo Chiu via AP)
A volunteer loads food into the trunk of vehicles during drive-thru food distribution in Los Angeles.

Congress stepped up for food insecure people in this pandemic, boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds by 15%. But that still left hungry people in 41% of U.S. counties where SNAP benefits fall short in covering the cost of meals by nearly 50 cents per meal. The boost to the program from the COVID-19 relief bills expires on Sept. 30, when the nation presumably goes back to the status quo pre-pandemic and when the maximum benefit in SNAP will fall short of low-income meal costs in 96% of counties. That’s what a new analysis from the Urban Institute finds.

The average cost of a low-income meal, the Urban Institute estimates, is $2.41. The maximum SNAP benefit per meal is $1.97. Nationally, they find, “the maximum SNAP benefit fell short of meeting monthly low-income meal costs by $39.99 per person. Among the 10 percent of counties with the highest average meal costs, the monthly shortfall is $69.75 per person.” That’s before the pandemic boost—the status quo that we’ll return to in five weeks.

“Our findings show the maximum SNAP benefit still leaves a gap in covering the cost of food for many families with low-incomes,” Elaine Waxman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said in prepared remarks. “About 4 in 10 households receiving SNAP have zero net income—if SNAP does not cover the cost of a meal, people in such households will be at high risk of experiencing food insecurity. Additional consideration of the geographic variation in food prices when setting SNAP benefit levels is critical to the health and well-being of the most vulnerable communities.” SNAP benefits are the same across the mainland U.S., whether in New York or Huntsville, Alabama—the least expensive place to live in the U.S.

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Biden Pushes for Voting Protections, But Not for Ending the Filibuster That Blocks Them

As Texas Democrats flee to DC to lobby for voting bills, advocates wish the president would take a stronger stand.

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 12, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

Texas House Democrats fled the state on Monday to block Republicans from passing a sweeping voter suppression bill and traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby their congressional counterparts to pass federal legislation protecting voting rights. “We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” Texas Democratic leaders said in a statement. “We need Congress to act now…to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

Now they want the White House to act with the same urgency. 

In a speech on Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris called voting rights “the fight of our lifetime.” President Biden plans to deliver a major speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday denouncing GOP efforts to make it harder to vote, which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.”

Yet voting rights advocates say the White House’s rhetoric about the existential threat to democracy has not been matched by action to solve the problem. Biden, they complain, has been much more engaged in trying to pass an infrastructure plan than in trying to persuade Senate Democrats to pass the For the People Act, the sweeping voting rights measure that was blocked by a GOP filibuster last month.

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Freedom Is Not Free (That’s Why You Don’t Have Any)

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?visual=true&url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F1086642940&show_artwork=true&maxwidth=1060&maxheight=1000

“Freedom is not free,” goes the old bumper sticker slogan, commonly accompanied by an image of a flag or soldiers or some other bullshit.

Freedom is not free, the saying goes, because military personnel are out there laying their lives on the line fighting for your right to do as you’re told and toil away at a meaningless job making some rich asshole even richer.

Freedom is not free, because we’re all just so much freer after murdering families on the other side of the planet for corporate profits and geostrategic domination.

Freedom is not free, because we’re all so much freer after teenagers get thrown into the gears of the imperial war machine to provide a good quarterly statement for Raytheon shareholders.

Freedom is not free, because this thing we’re calling “freedom” has been paid for with the blood, lives and limbs of millions of innocents throughout the Global South.

Freedom is not free. That’s why the only people doing as they please in our world are wealthy oligarchs.

Freedom is not free. And unless you’re wealthy enough or psychopathic enough there’s no way you’ll ever find a way to pay the price.

Freedom is not free. That’s why you don’t have any.

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‘Which Side Are You On?’: Poor People’s Campaign Pressures US Senate on Democracy and Justice

KENNY STANCIL

“Democracy versus autocracy is the battle of our time,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

https://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/styles/banner_image_1x_xl

Beginning with a “massive national call-in to every U.S. senator,” the Poor People’s Campaign on Monday launched a monthlong campaign to push Congress to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster, pass the For the People Act, restore the gutted Voting Rights Act, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour—progressive goals that have been thwarted by a combination of Republican obstructionism and Democratic acquiescence.

“Democracy versus autocracy is the battle of our time,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said Monday during an address that kicked off a “season of nonviolent moral direct action to save our democracy.”

“We must engage and escalate the nonviolent moral struggle and direct action for a Third Reconstruction,” Barber said, calling for the reinvigoration of an egalitarian movement to secure liberty and justice for all by building a true political democracy as well as a social and economic democracy that benefits and empowers the nation’s vast working-class majority.

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