In May, National COSH will launch a sexual harassment action network with a host of labor and nonprofit allies. The network will provide resources to foster leaders against sexual harassment, and bolster workplace and policy campaigns.
A bill on the table in California seeks to end discriminatory workers’ comp practices that reduce permanent disability ratings for women with job-related breast cancer if they are of child-bearing age.
UNITE HERE and hotel housekeepers have won an important victory in California with a new state OSHA rule that aims to prevent musculoskeletal injuries by requiring hotels to provide proper tools and training on injury risks, and ensuring workers have the right to suggest solutions for common risk factors. While such injuries are overwhelmingly common for housekeepers, it is difficult to get workers’ comp for chronic musculoskeletal conditions because they arise from repeated motions rather than a single recordable incident.
Several proposed laws would create important workers’ comp protections for first responders. Florida extended medical coverage and wage replacement benefits for first responders diagnosed with PTSD, in a bill supported by the CODE 9 Project, a nonprofit that raises awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In New Hampshire, similar legislation is on the table to include PTSD under workers’ comp and establish a committee to look at how better to protect against PTSD among police officers, firefighters, and EMTs. Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire is also pushing for legislation that would make cancer a compensable illness for firefighters, who face a heightened risk for the disease from repeated exposure to smoke. Finally, in Virginia a bill is advancing that would expand firefighters’ access to workers’ comp for cancer by taking the burden of proof off employees, who under the current law must often spend years tracking down data to prove their disease is job-related.
Courts are sending hundreds of men, many not yet convicted of anything, to work camps that charade as addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers while increasing profit margins for the private corporations that pocket these workers’ wages. Touted as a prison alternative, the programs force participants to work without pay, under threat that they will go to prison if they don’t cooperate. And because workers are considered “clients” instead of employees, they aren’t eligible for workers’ comp. A Reveal investigative report has found that one such program, founded by poultry plant executives, has refused to give injured workers proper care, intimidated them into working with serious injuries, and filed comp claims on their behalf only to pocket the payouts.
The meatpacking industry regularly contracts out one of its most dangerous jobs, night-shift cleanup, to companies that pay a mostly immigrant workforce a meager third of what day-shift workers earn. While the meatpacking industry has been under scrutiny for health and safety in recent years, conditions in sanitation work still go under the radar because companies are exempt from reporting contractors’ injuries to OSHA. Meanwhile, workers who are injured on the job are more likely to be fired than receive compensation, and most are too intimidated by threats of deportation to file claims for either workers’ comp or retaliation.
In Kentucky, where black lung rates have gone up 40% just in the past four years, a new law restricts black lung diagnoses for compensation cases to a handful of pulmonologists, most of whom work for coal companies.
In an uphill battle all too common for coal miners made ill on the job, retired miner Bethel Brock fought over 14 years for black lung benefits, with his claims repeatedly blocked by his former employer Westmoreland. When the Labor Department finally awarded Brock benefits last November, he thought the battle was finally over — until he received a bill telling him he had to repay benefits he received between his initial diagnosis and the company’s first appeal. The Labor Department also decided not to provide back-benefits for the years that Brock spent fighting his former employer, failing to hold the company accountable for its dishonest tactics.