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WBI BLOG

Nexus of Workers' Rights, Research & Social Policies



May 19th, 2020

Timely release of “Gone Postal” documentary

Director Jay Galione and Producer Sheila Dvorak announce the release of their documentary Gone Postal. Jay Galione, son of a postal worker, investigates the dark corners of the U.S. Postal Service. Across the country, brave employees stand up to injustice on the job and fight to Save the People’s Post Office.

Gone Postal TRAILER 2020 from Jay Galione on Vimeo

Gone Postal will screen on-demand for 24 hours starting at 12 noon on Friday May 22. Listed as Program #1 at the Workers Unite Film Festival Home Page.

On Saturday May 23 at 12 noon, join them: www.facebook.com/gonepostalfilm/ for a Live Panel with Special Guests who will answer your questions and talk about the current threat to our Postal Service and what we can do about it! Follow Them On Facebook To Stay Up To Date

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May 19th, 2020

Treasury and Trump install loyalists to ruin USPS from within

Here’s what the Trump administration has done behind the headlines to gain control over the US Postal Service. The Postal Service Board of Governors has oversight powers for USPS, operating like a Board of Trustees in a corporation. Board membership depends on U.S. Senate nominations (solely Republican determined) and presidential appointments. The Board is currently essentially all Trump appointed.

Recently, Trump has blasted the USPS as “a joke.” The Republicans have long wanted to privatize it so that over 630,000 unionized workers can be compelled to work for pennies on the dollar as non-union rentals. Trump’s only interest seems to be his petty war with Jeff Bezos. The Bezos-owned Washington Post has reporters with eyes wide open writing stories about Trump’s corruption. The Amazon-owning Bezos pays the USPS to carry millions of Amazon boxes the “last mile” for mere pennies per package. The Postal Regulatory Commission establishes shipping rates. Packages make up only about 30% of USPS business.

The USPS is losing money like all businesses, though they have to operate at a distinct disadvantage with the requirement to pay retirement funds in advance for workers not yet born! Now comes the U.S. Treasury dangling a small $10 billion loan as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act). Trump conditioned the loan on the raising of package and shipping rates by 4 times (to get back at Amazon). Note Trump’s reliance upon quid pro quo (again, can you remember Impeachment?). And Treasury demanded managerial control over the USPS in exchange for funding the loan.

Under Postmaster General Megan Brennan, the USPS asked Congress for $75 billion in emergency funding. As a quasi-governmental agency, the USPS does not receive routine funding from Congress.

Vice-chair of the Board, David Williams, a former Inspector General for the USPS, Social Security Administration, Treasury, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before Trump came to office, resisted the takeover attempts by Treasury and resigned on April 30 in protest.

The vacancy allowed the Board to name a new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, replacing Megan Brennan who served since 2015, an Obama appointee. DeJoy donated $1.2 million to Trump’s campaign and millions to the Republican National Committee. He is overseeing fundraising for the Republican National Convention.

Louis DeJoy“Postal workers are the heart and soul of this institution, and I will be honored to work alongside them and their unions,” DeJoy said in a formal statement. However his record at the firm he founded and led tells a different story. According to David Dayen at the American Prospect, several women workers had miscarriages on the job, after being ignored in their requests to lighten their duties, which included lifting heavy boxes. In one case (when DeJoy was on the board, but not CEO), a woman died on the warehouse floor and workers were instructed to work around her for the rest of the shift.

Two days after DeJoy was named, on May 13, 40-year USPS veteran Ronald Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General, resigned.

The foxes are firmly entrenched in the hen house now. Pray for the survival of the USPS.

Perhaps issue a new stamp to fundraise. We can lick them all!

trump family on postage stamps


UPDATE

The Democratic-led House passed $25 billion support package for the Postal Service. Next, it goes to Mitch’s side where the grim reaper and do-nothing Republican Senators await. Let’s see what happens.

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April 21st, 2020

Save the U.S. Postal Service

As Rachel Scarborough King writes in The Nation, the British Postal Service switched in 1840 from having people pay to receive their mail to having senders prepay postage with the introduction of the first postage stamp,

In the US in the 1840’s a single nationwide system developed. The cost to mail a letter to anywhere cost the same as to anywhere else. Postage was the great equalizer and everyone had equal access to mail.

Republicans have been pushing to privatize the USPS for decades. They would prefer that we pay a fortune to FedEx, UPS and DHL and any future courier. The Postal Service volume is down 30% from a year ago. With over 22 million newly unemployed, online Amazon purchases shipped by USPS, it is unlikely to turn around the fortunes of the large, unionized quasi-federal agency.

The USPS ceased being a federal agency in 1971. It is quasi-federal meaning that some federal rules apply to its employees but the only federal financial support comes from postage paid for mailings of elected officials (“franking”).

However, in 2006 Congress meddled with the future prospects of the USPS. It mandated that the USPS prepay the pensions for its employees 50 years IN ADVANCE. The billions paid each year into this senseless and unprecedented account erodes the budget needed to pay all other operating expenses. In slow times, the retirement obligation puts the agency in arrears.

Watch now as the Republicans crow about the “underperforming” Postal Service, a situation entirely manufactured by Republicans of an earlier time. They always expect Americans to have short memories.

I have an affinity for postal workers. I’ve spoken about workplace bullying at APWU events. A successful NALC arbitration, featuring eloquent Minneapolis arbitrator Bernice Fields, has been showcased in WBI programs since 2000. And most relevant is my participation in Emil Chiaberi’s documentary, Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal, an exploration of the unseen factors leading to postal workplace massacres.

To bring the story to the present, Trump hates the USPS for reasons different from the historical Republican privatization ideology. He simply hates billionaire Jeff Bezos who owns the Washington Post newspaper that holds Trump accountable for his lies (they maintain a count) and for breaking institutions intended to protect democracy. What does the Post have to do with the USPS? Bezos made his billions from Amazon who ships products via the USPS for discounted, high-volume rates. Trump loves Apple, but hates Amazon.

As various fiscal relief packages work their way through Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump ordered that no funds be given to the USPS. It is a deliberate act of cruelty.

Maybe we can do our part to boost revenue at the USPS.

Colleague David Yamada led me to the recent stamp design “Healing PTSD,” an apt title related to what bullied targets need. It was designed by Greg Breeding with a Mark Laita photo of a green plant sprouting from the ground covered by fallen leaves. The image is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, growth and hope.

Single stamps sell for $0.65. A sheet of 20 sells for $13 with $2 going to a PTSD treatment charities.

Buy USPS products — online (scroll to the bottom of page for PTSD stamp) or at your local post office.

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April 14th, 2020

A Military Service Whistleblower’s Story

Conversations With A Coast Guard Whistleblower

by Kelly Richmond Pope, Forbes, April 13, 2020

Meet Dr. Kimberly Young-McLear

1. When did you know that you had to blow the whistle?

After enduring workplace bullying and harassment for two years with no relief informally from the command, in fact just the opposite, I ultimately decided to elevate my complaints to have a formal investigation into my allegations. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard assigned a biased and an unqualified investigator who had an existing working relationship with my perpetrator. The command, led by two Admirals, then subjected me to another humiliating investigation, violating my privacy while the harassment escalated, where they again assigned another biased and unqualified investigator who had a working relationship with the perpetrator. The results of the investigation delivered to me by the command, including an Admiral was extremely intimidating and they told me that the results were “unsubstantiated.” As the psychological toll on me mounted and relationships turned against me for coming forward, I experienced suicide ideation at my lowest point after the two years of abuse, not feeling believed, and socially isolated. I knew that if I was experiencing these there were many others that were also. To make an analogy, there would be enough people who the reporting systems and chain of command failed to fill up an aircraft carrier. I made an intentional decision that if I was strong enough to speak up again then I would. I knew I had to blow the whistle when I realized that the issues were pervasive and systemic and that powerful individuals (Two Admirals) in the Coast Guard were intentionally abusing their power to sweep allegations under the rug and protect bullies. I knew it was our leadership that created toxic culture and that the toxic culture would continue to create more leaders emulating those behaviors. I spoke up to do my part to break the cycle. It’s a culture that impacts thousands of people in the Coast Guard, and many serve in silence, many suffer a severe psychological toll, or they are otherwise pushed out of the service and the cycle continues.

2. Tell me about your job/responsibilities?

I am a cybersecurity professional and engineer in the Coast Guard. I am an active duty Coast Guard service member, and am currently detailed to the Dept of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CISA is responsible for protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.

3. How did your upbringing impact your decision to blow the whistle?

I was raised by two immigrant parents from Trinidad and Tobago. They both served almost 30 years each in the US Air Force. My parents taught me about ethics, compassion, and integrity. In my youth, I spent a lot of time in libraries learning about civil rights and social movements. They taught me to be observant and to intervene. Growing up around military bases I would interact with veterans from Vietnam, many were Black men, and I began to sense and understand that society seemed to discard older generations who have served and sacrificed. I internalized a sense of compassion and desire to want to pursue public service in part to honor their sacrifices as with the sacrifices of civil rights activists all the way to the atrocities that my ancestors endured from the Coasts of West Africa. This was reinforced when I studied at Florida A& M University, where I learned more about systemic racism. When I decided to blow the whistle after two years as a professor at the Coast Guard Academy, I reached a point when I decided “no more” not just for myself but for those whose voices and stories will never be known but also for our future generations who deserve better.

4. Who was most proud of you standing up and who was more disappointed in you standing up?

My family, other survivors, and ethical and compassionate colleagues and my students were the most proud. After I spoke up, it was revealed that 7 Admirals, 2 SES, several Captains, the legal staffs, and others despite having direct knowledge of my allegations of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, used their power to protect those who harmed me. The senior leadership of the Coast Guard continues to marginalize and silence me to this day. The Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, declined to provide me a formal written apology, meet with me to discuss ways in which our service can improve, and declined to hold anybody accountable for violating our core values, policies, and the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. I can only surmise that his lack of public appearance at the Congressional Hearing on Dec 11, 2019 and the above declinations, that he is the most disappointed that I stood up for a better Coast Guard and better military.

Continue reading this article… »

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April 12th, 2020

Bocelli in Milan during coronavirus, an Easter treat

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April 10th, 2020

Hedge fund guy says to hell with hedge fund guys & Wall Street

We need so much more of this when working people are getting shafted. Note the incredulous business network host. How dare he challenge vulture capitalism during (or because of) the pandemic.

Chamath Palihapitiya on CNBC

If the video doesn’t play, follow this link:

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/04/09/palihapitiya-us-shouldnt-bail-out-hedge-funds-billionaires-during-pandemic.html?&qsearchterm=Chamath%20Palihapitiya

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April 2nd, 2020

Virtual choirs for our human souls for these strange times

Best finds of the week.

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March 26th, 2020

Self-Care Nurses Threatened with Termination

At the time of this writing, in the U.S. we are several weeks into the COVID-19 crisis. The infected Grand Princess cruise ship passengers disembarked in Oakland, CA and were taken to Kaiser hospital there for treatment.

Kaiser Permanente is California’s largest HMO. It is a tripartite system of “socialized medicine.” It owns its hospitals and all ancillary services. It owns its own physician group that serves Kaiser patients exclusively. And it is an insurance company that serves only one network – Kaiser. It is known for its cost-cutting initiatives.

Anyone aware of ongoing circumstances knows well the tale of protective gear shortages in the U.S.

N95 Respirators, also in short supply, are protective devices designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. According to the FDA, the ‘N95’ designation means that the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks.

The Trump Administration, led by an unscientific narcissist, in light of the shortages, has had the Center for Disease Control (the CDC) weaken its directives regarding difficult-to-find protective equipment for health care providers, including nurses. That is, the CDC issued instructions on how to reuse eyewear and masks, intended for single use, then disposal.

Reuse of masks, not N95 respirators, involves washing and sanitizing. With an ample supply, reuse would be considered unsanitary. These half-measures put the front-line providers at risk. However, during this crisis and bungled production, stockpiling, hoarding and failure to distribute, the industry has had to rely on inferior measures and the well intentioned production of masks by volunteers and clothing designers (kudos to Christian Siriano).

According to reporting by Akela Lacy in The Intercept, Kaiser, the employer adopted the CDC instruction to reuse protective masks dictated by shortages while ignoring the science of protection. Both patients and providers face greater danger of transmission with this protocol.

Nurses lucky enough to own their own N95 respirators are better able to protect themselves while treating patients with the virus. They are able to mitigate some of the risk themselves.

Inexplicably, Kaiser threatened to terminate nurses not following the weak and less safe CDC mask reuse policy if they dared to wear their superior personal N95 respirators! WTF! Further Kaiser only has gowns made with a permeable cloth that does not protect as traditional gowns do.

How ridiculous is the decision to terminate healthy nurses? Nurses will soon to be in short supply as they acquire the virus themselves and have to take time away from work. So, the mighty corporation decides to fire them for “insubordination.”

Kaiser deserves national shame along with the feckless federal government and its inane, responsibility-dodging, “response” to this life-threatening crisis.

Kaiser nurses who are members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United are protesting. Here is their protest flyer.

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March 10th, 2020

Seeking donors for 2020 WBI National Survey



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November 26th, 2018

American suicide rates

From Reuters news service

Suicide Rate Rising Among U.S. Workers

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Suicide rates are rising among U.S. workers, and the risk may depend partly on the types of jobs people do, government researchers suggest.

From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate among adults ages 16 to 64 rose 34 percent, from 12.9 deaths for every 100,000 people in the population to 17.3 per 100,000, according to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The highest suicide rate among men was for workers in construction and mining jobs, with 43.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers in 2012 and 53.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, the analysis found.

The highest suicide rate among women was for workers in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, with 11.7 fatalities for every 100,000 workers in 2012 and 15.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.

“Since most adults spend a great deal of their time at work, the workplace is an important and underutilized venue for suicide prevention,” said study co-author Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC in Atlanta.

While the study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how specific types of jobs or workplace characteristics might contribute to the risk of suicide, lack of control over employment and a lack of job security can both be stressors that make suicide more likely, Stone said by email.

Many factors outside the workplace can also influence the risk of suicide, including relationship problems, substance use, physical or mental health, finances or legal problems, Stone added.

And ready access to guns and other weapons have a big impact on whether suicidal thoughts turn into actions with fatal outcomes, Stone said.

Guns may explain the higher suicide rates among men than among women, said Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Clarkston, Washington.

“In America, with ready access to guns, men make the choice of death by gun, but it is the less likely choice by females,” Namie, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Hence, it is possible that in moments of despair that might pass if friends or family could intervene, with a gun handy, the decision is too quickly implemented.”
Continue reading this article… »

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