• November 19, 2017
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    The Week in Labor History

    ovember 13
    A total of 259 miners died in the underground Cherry Mine fire. As a result of the disaster, Illinois established stricter safety regulations and in 1911, the basis for the state’s Workers Compensation Act was passed - 1909
     
    A Western Federation of Miners strike is crushed by the militia in Butte, Mont. - 1914
     
    The Holland Tunnel opens, running under the Hudson River for 1.6 miles and connecting the island of Manhattan in New York City with Jersey City, N.J. Thirteen workers died over its 7-year-long construction - 1927
     
    GM workers’ post-war strike for higher wages closes 96 plants - 1945
     
    Striking typesetters at the Green Bay, Wisc., Press Gazette start a competing newspaper, The Green Bay Daily News. With financial support from a local businessman who hated the Press Gazette, the union ran the paper for four years before their angel died and it was sold to another publisher. The Gannett chain ultimately bought the paper, only to fold it in 2005 - 1972
     
    Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union activist Karen Silkwood is killed in a suspicious car crash on her way to deliver documents to a newspaper reporter during a safety investigation of her Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Oklahoma - 1974

    November 14 
    Women’s Trade Union League founded, Boston - 1903
     
    The American Railway Supervisors Association is formed at Harmony Hall in Chicago by 29 supervisors working for the Chicago & North Western Railway. They organized after realizing that those railroaders working under their supervision already had the benefits of unionization and were paid more for working fewer hours - 1934
     
    The Depression-era Public Works Administration agrees with New York City today to begin a huge slum clearance project covering 20 acres in Brooklyn, where low cost housing for 2,500 families will be completed. It was the first of many such jobs-and-housing projects across the country - 1934
     
    The National Federation of Telephone Workers—later to become the Communications Workers of America—is founded in New Orleans - 1938
     
    Jimmy Carter-era OSHA publishes standard reducing permissible exposure of lead, protecting 835,000 workers from damage to nervous, urinary and reproductive systems - 1978
    (Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class: While OSHA was working to preserve people’s health in the ‘70s, other forces were working against labor’s interests.  Stayin’ Alive is a remarkable account of how working-class America hit the rocks in the political and economic upheavals of the 1970s.)
     
    Federation of Professional Athletes granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1979
     
    November 15
    Founding convention of the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions is held in Pittsburgh. It urges enactment of employer liability, compulsory education, uniform apprenticeship and child and convict labor laws. Five years later it changes its name to the American Federation of Labor - 1881

    November 16
    A county judge in Punxsutawney, Pa., grants an injunction requested by the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Co. forbidding strikers from speaking to strikebreakers, posting signs declaring a strike is in progress, or even singing hymns. Union leaders termed the injunction “drastic” - 1927
     
    The National Football League Players Association ends a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. The players wanted, but failed to win until many years later, a higher share of gross team revenues - 1982
     
    November 17
    The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York is founded "to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen." The Society remains in existence to this day – 1785

    Martin Irons dies near Waco, Texas.  Born in Dundee, Scotland, he emigrated to the U.S. at age 14.  He joined the Knights of Labor and in 1886 led a strike of 200,000 workers against the Jay Gould-owned Union Pacific and Missouri railroads.  The strike was crushed, Irons was blacklisted and he died broken-down and penniless.  Said Mother Jones: "The capitalist class hounded him as if he had been a wild beast." - 1900
     
    To the huge relief of Post Office Department employees, the service sets a limit of 200 pounds a day to be shipped by any one customer.  Builders were finding it cheaper to send supplies via post than via wagon freight. In one instance, 80,000 bricks for a new bank were shipped parcel post from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, 170 miles away.  The new directive also barred the shipment of humans: a child involved in a couple’s custody fight was shipped—for 17¢—from Stillwell to South Bend, Ind., in a crate labeled “live baby” - 1916
     
    With many U.S. political leaders gripped by the fear of communism and questioning citizen loyalties in the years following World War II, the Screen Actors Guild votes to force its officers to take a “non-communist” pledge.  A few days earlier the Hollywood Ten had been called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities - 1947
     
    November 18
    Seattle printers refuse to print anti-labor ad in newspaper - 1919
     
    Thirty-one men died on Lake Michigan with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley during one of the worst storms in the lake’s history. The 623-foot ship, carrying limestone, broke in two. Four crewmen survived - 1958
     
    November 19
    Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, executed in Utah on what many believe was a framed charge of murder. Before he died he declared: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.” - 1915
     
    The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine is used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway - 1954
     
    The National Writers Union is founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it was to merge into and become a local of the United Auto Workers - 1981

    - compiled/edited by David Prosten at Union Communication Services

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  • ACTion Request = Tues 4-24 Call Your Senators on AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034
    Updated On: Apr 28, 2012

    ACTion Request

     Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees for cuts. Buried in the Postal Reform Bill (S.1789) are provisions that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers who are injured on the job.

    Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” would eliminate the harmful provision that reduces benefits for federal workers injured on the job.

    We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees by voting YES on the Akaka Amendment (Amendment 2034).

    Tell Your Senators:

     Vote “YES” on Akaka Amendment 2034 to Postal Reform Bill on Tuesday April 24th

     Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees to pay for other initiatives…

    On Tuesday, April 24th, the U.S. Senate will vote on Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” to strike language that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers injured on the job…

    Tell the Senate to Protect Injured Federal Employees…

    We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees. You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 

     

    SUMMARY OF AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034

    Senator Akaka, joined by Senators Inouye, Harkin, Murray, and Franken, filed an amendment to strike Title III of S.1789, which reduces workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees, and replace it with the text of H.R. 2465, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act. This bi-partisan bill (introduced by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)) passed the House by voice vote last year and amends the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101 et seq., the federal workers’ compensation program.

    Specifically, this amendment would:

    Allow the Department of Labor (DOL) to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration to combat fraud.

    Expand DOL’s ability to collect from third parties.

    Authorize DOL to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker, promoting greater accountability in the program.

    Streamline the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.

    Ensure that Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Nurses are reimbursed for their services and can certify disability for traumatic injuries.

    Ensure injuries or illnesses sustained as the result of terrorism are covered as a war-risk hazard. This will help guarantee federal workers injured abroad or in the line of duty are appropriately compensated.

    Raise the maximum disfigurement benefit from $3,500 (set in 1949) to $50,000 and provide additional support for funeral expenses (up to $6,000).

    Why support this amendment:

    Workers’ compensation cuts do not belong in postal reform:

    Title III of the Postal Reform bill would cut workers’ compensation benefits for federal employees government-wide. Most of the workers affected by this are not postal employees. This is the only provision in the legislation that is not specific to the Postal Service.

    These cuts do not even help the Postal Service in the near term. According to CBO, through 2016, the changes would result in a net increase of $10 million in Postal Service costs. Over the long run, these benefit cuts would only reduce a tiny fraction of the Postal Service’s deficit.

    Senator Akaka said we need to take a closer look to make sure we do not harm disabled employees. This reform should not be included in postal reform legislation. The sponsors of this bill claim that this reform mirrors a proposal from Obama Administration (actually proposed by the Bush Administration but the Obama Administration has carried it forward). However, the Administration proposal is not as severe, and it is not retroactive.

    Retroactive changes are unacceptable:

    The proposal to apply these changes retroactively to many workers already injured is particularly concerning. It changes the rules after the fact for disabled employees who were relying on the promise of these benefits.

    Reducing benefit levels for a past injury may invite litigation. FECA provides such employees’ their exclusive remedy against the federal government, and employees may not recover non-economic losses such as compensation for pain and suffering. Retroactive changes to benefit levels after the injury has occurred violate the government’s part of this bargain. Just as a litigant is not permitted to unilaterally change the terms of a settlement after it is made, the federal government should not be able to unilaterally change its workers’ compensation liability after that liability has attached.

    Retroactive changes violate a basic premise of insurance. A responsible employee may choose to further insure himself or herself against disability, but that is not possible if their coverage under the workers’ compensation statute can be changed after the fact.

    These cuts will harm senior citizens:

    The reductions at “retirement age” are very concerning as well. Like most states, the federal government currently provides permanent benefits for permanent injuries. This is necessary because employees who cannot work because of injuries do not experience normal wage growth, do not earn Social Security credit, cannot contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan, and may have little ability to save. Moreover, the employees in the Civil Service Retirement System this applies to are not even eligible for Social Security.

    Congress has gone down this road before, in 1949 passing a law (P.L. 81-357) that allowed workers’ comp benefits to be reduced at age 70. Congress repealed that law in 1974 (P.L.93-416), citing concerns about age discrimination and the burden on recipients.

    Low-wage workers will be hurt most:

    Proponents of these cuts often point to the tax-free status of FECA benefits. While this provides significant benefit to higher-wage workers in high tax brackets, low wage workers receive little or no benefit from FECA benefits being tax free.

    These cuts remove the FECA supplement for dependents. Low-wage workers, in particular, may rely significantly on tax advantages provided to families with dependents, including filing as a head of household, exemptions for dependents, child and child care tax credits, and the Earned

    Income Tax Credit. All of those tax benefits are lost during receipt of FECA, and the FECA dependent supplement helps offset those losses. Removing that supplement will harm low-wage workers. These cuts provide no relief to families and they will be driven into poverty by the reduction.

    House-passed bill offers a bipartisan alternative:

    This amendment replaces the problematic FECA cuts with the text of the H.R. 2465, which makes common sense changes to the FECA program without reducing benefits. The Republican-led House decided not to change workers compensation benefits at this time, and instead to study the issue. This bill was sponsored by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and passed on suspension by voice vote on November 29, 2011.

    At the request of both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee (Klein, Walberg, Miller and Woolsey), which has jurisdiction over workers’ compensation in the House, the GAO is reviewing workers’ compensation benefits right now. It makes no sense to legislate before the studies Congress requested are final, Senator Akaka said. 


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