Archive for the ‘The New America’ Category


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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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie, Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, The New America | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



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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Wealthy & Business Groups get their laws passed, American public ignored

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court, the Roberts court, regularly finds in favor of corporations over individuals. In two landmark cases, Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014), the court gave wealthy individuals unlimited control over the political process — electing politicians and influencing lawmakers concerning public policy laws.

Now comes an empirical analysis of 1,779 public policy laws crafted between 1981 and 2002 by two academic political scientists — Martin Gilens at Princeton and Benjamin Page at Northwestern. The conclusions suggest that oligarchy (or more technically plutocracy) better describes the U.S. than a simple electoral democracy. This is a shot across the bow to defenders of American exceptionalism.


(more…)

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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), The New America, Workplace Bullying Laws | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Some French workers told to disconnect from employers while off work

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

It would be great if bosses would leave us alone at home, during family time and on weekends. But it is not the American way, nor the Brit way, nor the French way.

Recent hyperbolic mis-reporting stated that a new French “law” protected workers from bosses contacting them after 6 pm. Oops.

The real news was the inclusion in two union bargaining agreements covering about 250,000 mid-level managers in tech industries. Those workers are subject to erratic schedules, and up to 78-hour work weeks, unlike other workers (who average 39.5 hour weeks) despite a 35-hour work week limit on the books. And the terms of the agreements have not yet been approved by the Labor Ministry.

So, to reduce stress (a tiny bit), the new agreements with employers “oblige” (not order, not mandate under threat of punishment) workers “to disconnect from remote communications tools” outside of normal working hours, whatever those hours might be — not expressly 6 pm. In other words, the onus is on the worker to turn off the employer when away from work for at least 11 hours (and that includes sleeping).

This gesture is a nod to the European notion that quality of life still can matter. Workaholism is not accepted without complaint. French workers engage in strikes and work stoppages. The French take to the street to protest social injustice. However, one union official made this conciliatory remark to the NY Times

“We also wouldn’t like this to squeeze businesses and cause them problems.”

The fact that the roots of the workplace bullying movement were sown in the social democratic Scandinavian nations should not be lost on Americans.

Yet, American media scorn the French as if they are lazy and unproductive. As if an overstressed and abused work force is exemplary. I hear the chants now — We’re number 1! Americans meekly accept everything their corporate masters shove down their throats. And public sector unions, the last bastion of organized labor, are being gutted by malicious state legislatures and governors hell bent on privatizing America. Few fight back out of fear. Why?

The French are not to be mocked. In fact, French unions are trying to hold on to an eroding leverage themselves. The globalized world dominated by multinational corporations have convinced all governments to step aside and let businesses operate without rules or limits.

In Germany, Volkswagen forbade supervisors from contacting workers after hours and shut down its servers to stop e-mail and phone calls. Deutsche Telekom also invoked a communications-free time ensuring that managers have no right to expect workers to answer supervisors’ calls or e-mails while away from work.

It would be far better if Americans voluntarily unplugged themselves from their work-provided phones and devices. They couldn’t track us in our bedrooms with remotely launched laptop cameras. The NSA would have no record of our interactions. And we would sleep more peacefully. The trouble is that employers have convinced too many of us to be afraid, very afraid. Oh, well. Maybe someday.

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WBI Podcast 39: American workers under the microscope

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Hitachi technology takes worker surveillance to new extremes. Where is the employers’ confidence in, and trust of, employees? It’s called the “Business Microscope.”

Here’s a picture of the device and the tracking system:

Listen to WBI Podcast 39 by Dr. Gary Namie

Podcast 39

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Posted in Commentary by G. Namie, Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Podcasts, The New America, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



HS magazine tackles internal “rape culture,” censored by “adult” principal

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Our societal tendency to blame victims of all sorts undercuts our ability to make systemic changes. If individuals are responsible rather than schools, employers and man-made (sic) organizations, then nothing ever has to change.

This is one of the many forms of resistance we face in the workplace bullying movement.

An interesting case surfaced in which a Wisconsin high school principal, Jon Wiltzius, was upset with a story published in the student’s monthly magazine. The editors bravely took on the topic of rape and blaming victims in their school. Three victims told their stories anonymously. Kudos for editors-in-chief Rachel Schneider and Tanvi Kumar.

The cover story ruffled the feathers of the principal responsible for the organizational (building) culture. His reaction — to cite case law that the District has control, not the student editors, over the publication — rather than hold an assembly to have all students discuss what may contribute to the normalization of sexual assault in high school and what his school could do about it. Oops. Guess the students are more adult about this serious topic than the principal who chooses to duck his responsibility.

Watch the WBAY-TV, ABC affiliate in Green Bay report

Read the well-written, truthful article on pages 11-16 of the student publication Cardinal Columns at Fond-du-Lac High School.

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Posted in Broadcasts: Video, TV, radio, webinars, Commentary by G. Namie, Media About Bullying, The New America, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



When victors claim victimhood: “War on the 1%”

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Evidence mounts every week that the American “have-nots” suffer new economic indignities. In our very unequal America (please hold off on the ‘American dream for everyone’ speech), wealth becomes might. The extremely wealthiest 1% benefited from the global recession of 2008. Of the wealth accumulated since then, the 1% won 95% while the bottom 90% of Americans grew poorer.

A disgusting aspect of our new Gilded Age (term coined in the late 19th century by Mark Twain) is the shamelessness of the uber rich. A case in point — Tom Perkins, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is making news with provocative (read hate-filled) comments that taxation is persecution of the rich by progressive akin to Nazi persecution of the Jews and, for extra effect, voting should be the privilege earned only by those who actually pay taxes. The latest outrageous comment was made at the ostensibly “serious” and credible San Francisco Commonwealth Club event titled: War on the 1%

Really? Really? The exploiters are victims??? Sounds like the bully’s faux lament.

Matt Tiabi regularly reports on new financial scams that generate obscene gobs of cash for the inventors while screwing employees of affected companies, and of course, the public.

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Join ‘Today We Fight Back’ against unwarranted surveillance

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Join supporters of privacy and internet openness. See the 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance: including legality, necessity, proportionality, transparency and public oversight.

Call or e-mail your legislators easily from the campaign’s website.

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Americans take to the streets (finally) for justice

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

They came by the hundred thousands. You might think this is about the 750,000 Seattle Seahawks fans clogging the streets of Seattle to greet their NFL team coming home triumphant from the Super Bowl (pictured on the left). In a way, they make the point for me that it took the NFL to get people to take to the streets. But it was a feel-good parade that few could argue with. And note that the parade’s participants outnumbered the population of Seattle. Some converged on the city from far away. WBI lives 100 miles north and there were two busloads and untold car pools who made the trek. So this is what it takes to move people to act, to stand in the frigid air to make a statement of some sort.

Why don’t Americans protest in the streets? Robert Reich wrote that despite the economic pain suffered by the poor — underpaid workers, the underemployed and the unemployed — we Americans are afraid to protest corporate greed and government indifference lest we lose our jobs. He also believes that our cynicism about government, now commonplace thanks to an unrelenting message from the right for over 40 years, keeps us in our couches.

But hope springs eternal. A bit of background. North Carolina is one of several states where rabid right wingers (don’t call ‘em conservatives) control the state legislature and the governor’s seat. The politicians who seem to hate citizens have run amok, trampling voting rights, undermining public education and seemingly re-segregating the state as was done after the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) via Jim Crow laws. Bill Moyers produced a mini-documentary on the recent setbacks for North Carolinians.

In N.C., Rev. William Barber, pastor, PhD in public policy, State NAACP President, and organizer extraordinaire, has led what he called “Moral Monday” protests. They began with a half dozen people at his church. Barber, the smart organizer staged an event on Feb. 8 in Raleigh (see poster) that included activists for multiple progressive causes. In fact, the event had a 14-point agenda. On Sunday, the crowd estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 marchers took over Raleigh.

Moral marchers modeled for other Americans one week after the Super Bowl that other things matter beside the NFL: quality public schools, livable wage, health care for all, increased access to voting, affordable housing, end of the death penalty, immigrant rights, and redress for North Carolina’s racist past. It was heartening to see the successful event. It should remind us of our rebellious history, that our nation was forged by protest. Too bad the corporate media kinda ignored it all.

WBI salutes the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina and around the nation.

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