Archive for the ‘Commentary by G. Namie’ Category


Stupid state lawmakers deliberately distort science

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

“Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress.
But I repeat myself.”
Mark Twain

I’m starting to sound like my father and can’t believe I question nearly every day “what is this world coming to?” Near the top of my “it’s all going to hell” list is America’s turning its back on science — unabashedly, proudly, defiantly — through legislation.

In the UK, the BBC has banned from their airwaves crackpot guests preaching that climate change is not real. The change is to bolster scientific integrity. Staff will receive training in science and scientific conferences will be attended by staff to stay abreast of developments.

Deniers get equivalence here in the US. One denier with one believer (proxy by Bill Nye, the “Science Guy”). Viewers ignorant of the facts could conclude that climate change is not really something to be concerned about. The fallacy of this false equivalence was never more clear than this demonstration by comedian John Oliver on his HBO show This Week Tonight.

And recently the British government extended its public school ban on teaching pseudoscience, creationism, to cover “academies” and “free schools,” the equivalent of charter schools in the States. The government recognizes the religious bases of the founders of such schools. Thus creationism promotes religion and has no business in the teaching of science.

America is headed in the other direction, driving headfirst into ignorance. Creationists and advocates for “intelligent design” in the US seem to be gaining clout. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) 2014 legislative scorecard identified states that are attempting to make their children science illiterates.

(more…)

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Got a Minute? For Employers

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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Men are Subjected to Workplace Bullying too

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Here is a great video from Sue O’Donnell RN, MN, PhD, University of New Brunswick. The strong illustrations of men being bullied at work is supported by WBI research. According to the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey males comprise 40% of bullied targets.

Men Workplace Bullying from Nick Wilson Videography on Vimeo.

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Healthy Workplace Bill legislation: A 2014 perspective on distorted amendments

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The Healthy Workplace Campaign is WBI’s effort to enact anti-bullying legislation for the American workplace state by state. The model bill is called the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB).


Features of the HWB

• Suffolk University Law Professor David C. Yamada, text author, used federal Title VII Civil Rights laws as basis

• Defines severe abusive conduct — does not use term workplace bullying

• Provides legal redress for anyone subjected to abusive conduct, whether or not the person is a member of a protected status group

• Requires that abusive conduct result in either demonstrable health or economic harm to plaintiff

• Plaintiffs who file lawsuits make public formerly hidden, confidential employer processes that hide and deny bullying

• Prohibits retaliation against any participant in procedures involved in dealing with the abusive conduct complaint

• Requires plaintiffs to hire private attorneys, no fiscal impact on state government

• Provides incentives (affirmative defenses) for employers who implement genuine corrective procedures

• Preserves managerial prerogative to discipline and terminate employees

• Does not interfere with state workers’ compensation laws or union CBAs

We named the HWB in 2002. All other uses of the name HWB are unauthorized by us. California first introduced the HWB in 2003. It has been carried in over half of states and two territories since. The Workplace Bullying Institute trains and provides support to a national network of volunteer Sate Coordinators who lobby their respective state legislators to sponsor the HWB. You can track its status at the HWB website.

Botched Amendments & Unanticipated Consequences

As authors of the HWB, we naturally want the full and original version of the bill enacted into law. And we realize compromises will be made during the process. It is “sausage making,” after all. We just wish all bill sponsors would refuse to allow major revisions that change the spirit of the bill from protecting abused workers to something else. Since the HWB was first introduced, different amendments have been proposed or made.

Often the well-intended sponsor, a pro-worker advocate, agrees to compromise adopting the belief that the law can be built in steps. Let’s get this version passed now and it will be revisited in the coming years and supplemented with the other desired provisions.

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Punishment too light for employer-caused death & toxifying river systems

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

In this space we regularly call for greater employer accountability and the enactment of laws that make that accountability more likely than is currently done voluntarily. Our domain is the non-physical safety threat. U.S. workers are supposedly to be made safe from threats to their physical safety.

OSHA, a “regulatory” agency responsible for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. seems to have trouble accomplishing its mission. “OSHA’s mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Wondering if by assistance, OSHA means delivering “waivers” to destructive employers who poison and take lives.

For example, the following two stories of injustice based on token punishment will curdle your blood.

Story 1.

A CSC Sugar plant in Fairless Hills, PA provides sugar for Snapple and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The plant is staffed and managed entirely by temp workers. According to ProPublica statistics, temporary workers are most at risk for safety hazards at worksites in states where data exist.

In February 2013, Peruvian New Jersey resident Janio Salinas was unclogging the machine from below. He was buried alive and asphyxiated. Coworkers found him after they returned from lunch. The onsite temp manager had complained about this potential hazard to a higher level manager until a safety platform was installed. However, the big boss instructed the temp manager to remove that platform because it had slowed the flow of sugar, had slowed down “production.” That big boss lied about his order to investigators, claiming ignorance about the platform (picture on the left). His costly decision was made 13 days before Salinas was buried. Turns out the only cost was Salinas’ life.

Next came the OSHA investigation. OSHA initially fined CSC $25,855 but after CSC installed a safety guard and started using a new procedure to break up sugar clumps, the fine was reduced to $18,098 (for good behavior???). Jean Kulp, director of OSHA’s Allentown, PA, office, told Univision that her agency doesn’t have the ability to shut down businesses, has limited criminal enforcement provisions, and found the CSC had not been “willfully in violation,” which would have triggered bigger fines despite a record of repeated violations.

$18,098 for a man’s life!

Kulp’s ultimate insult to the Salinas’ surviving family: CSC had not in her judgement shown “total disregard” for its workers.

Thanks to Daily Kos for the tip to the tale.

(more…)

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NLRB gutted by Supreme Court

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

We wrote in Jan. 2013 about the Republican attempts to block Pres. Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Sen. Mitch McConnell kept convening and recessing the Senate during the break at the end of 2011. Using this pro forma technique, the Senate was technically never recessed for more than three days at at time. During one of those 3-day recesses, Obama appointed two of his desired NLRB Commissioners.

Following their appointments, the NLRB made several pro-worker decisions, reversing years of anti-worker decisions by Republican-led Boards. If two of the three NLRB members were to be invalidated, the decisions could also be considered invalid.

A federal court vacated Obama’s recess appointments, deeming them unconstitutional. In the NLRB v. Noel Canning Supreme Court June 26, 2014 decision, the high court supported the lower court’s decision. SCOTUS concluded “Three days is too short a time to bring a recess within the scope of the [Recess Appointment] Clause [of Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution], so the President lacked the authority to make those appointments.” Obama’s appointments to the NLRB are unconstitutional, so sayeth a unanimous (9-0) Supreme Court. The typical liberal justice Breyer wrote the opinion with Scalia writing his own concurring opinion criticizing the majority for being too narrowly focused.

The Court did think it important that a recess be more than 3 days. A review of past recess appointments by Presidents showed that 10 days was the shortest period on record. So, there must be a magic time between 3 and 10 days to make it right. With regards to the Court reviewing actual work done during pro forma sessions (none) and challenging their legitimacy, the Court said it would not “engage in an in-depth factual appraisal of what the Senate actually did during its pro forma sessions in order to determine whether it was in recess or in session for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause.”

Read the Supreme Court decision.

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School district values in tight budget times — gun training?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Talk about “values” is cheap. Living them is a tad more difficult. When budgets are tight, as all public school districts claim they are, where they spend those limited funds clearly demonstrates what Superintendents and School Boards believe is most important.

In southwest Missouri Christian County, Sheriff Joey Kyle believes he has the correct response to school shootings. Kyle told RiverFront Times reporter Sam Levin, “Gun ban talk is a hot topic, but I’ve got statistics out the ying-yang that shows gun bans are ineffectual. If these [shootings] are gonna get stopped, who’s gonna be the people to stop it? You’re there when the incident occurs. Let’s empower people.”

So far, Kyle convinced three of the eight school districts to agree to the 40 hours of training by Shield Solutions. The Kansas City Star reports that school districts are signing up fast from other regions of Missouri.

Two volunteers from a school are trained for $17,500. They will act as non-uniformed on-site respondents in the event of shootings, much like air marshals on commercial aircraft.

Odd how these districts found the funds for this unproven approach to school safety.

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Fuzzy Math: The guesstimate that struck down California’s teacher tenure laws.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

This article UPDATES A California Judge guts teachers union.

By Jordan Weissmann – Slate – June 12, 2014

This week Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu handed the education reform movement a stunning legal victory, when he struck down California’s teacher tenure laws for discriminating against poor and minority students. The statutes made it so onerous to fire bad teachers, he wrote, that they all but guaranteed needy kids would be stuck in classrooms with incompetent instructors—rendering the laws unconstitutional.

As evidence, Treu cited a statistic that sounded damning: According to a state witness, between 1 and 3 percent of California’s teachers could be considered “grossly ineffective.” Here was the passage:

“There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms. Dr. Berliner, an expert called by State Defendants, testified that 1 to 3% of teachers in California are grossly ineffective. Given that that the evidence showed roughly 275,000 active teachers in this state, the extrapolated number of grossly ineffective teachers ranges from 2,750 to 8,250. Considering the effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students … it therefore cannot be gainsaid that the number of grossly ineffective teachers has a direct, real, appreciable, and negative impact on a significant number of California students, now and well into the future for as long as said teachers hold their positions.”

This seemed like a fairly important piece of the decision — if you’re going to argue in court that a state law is dooming children to second-rate educations, you ought to be able to quantify the problem. Politically, it also seemed liked a pretty awful indictment of the state government if officials knew for certain that so many useless teachers were lounging around California’s classrooms. But where did this number come from?

Nowhere, it turns out. It’s made up. Or a “guesstimate,” as David Berliner, the expert witness Treu quoted, explained to me when I called him on Wednesday. It’s not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular. “I pulled that out of the air,” says Berliner, an emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University. “There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.” He also never used the words “grossly ineffective.”

The expert cited in the ruling doesn’t even necessarily believe that low test scores qualify somebody as a bad teacher.

(more…)

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A California judge guts teachers unions

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

A lawsuit funded by Silicon Valley rich guy, David Welch, is shaking the public education world. A California Superior Court judge, Rolf Michael Treu, found for the plainitffs — nine students backed by the group Students Matter.

The ruling was filed on June 10, 2014.

Teachers think students matter, too. But the pitched battle between non-educators who once went to school which they think qualifies them to know everything about K-12 education, and those who train just to teach schoolchildren has been fought for years. The tack is to beat up teachers publicly, blame teachers, call them bad. And in this case, Vergara vs. California, bad teachers are branded “grossly ineffective.”

Nine students were named as plaintiffs.

The plaintiff’s attorneys were from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The defense was represented by the Attorney General, joined by the California Teachers Association and the Calfornia Federation of Teachers.

Read the judge’s decision.

(more…)

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Got a Minute? Bullying & Brain

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

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