August 13, 2015 Kim Krisberg 0Comment

A Republican-led plan to ban unions at the Internal Revenue Service could leave agency workers without union representation and make all federal unions susceptible to similar tactics, according to Joe Davidson writing in the Washington Post.

Davidson reports that the plan, which was released earlier this month, was included in a bipartisan report on accusations of political interference at the IRS, though no evidence was presented that union members took part in political favoritism. The anti-union proposal, put forth by Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, came just days before National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley gave her farewell speech. Davidson writes:

The Republicans said the law “must be amended to designate the IRS as an agency that is exempt from labor organization and collective bargaining requirements.”

Their rationale is “the nature of their work requires them to be completely apolitical,” like employees in a handful of agencies, including the CIA, FBI and the Secret Service. Yet, law enforcement officers in the Border Patrol and Customs are unionized, as are correctional officers and airport transportation security officers. Furthermore, the requirement to provide services without political favoritism applies to federal employees generally, certainly in the executive and judicial branches. That’s the basis of the civil service.

Davidson quoted Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who said that banning unions at the IRS “would minimize the risk for political influence and enhance the agency’s ability to operate without bias.” To which Davidson noted:

That rationale can apply across the government. If Republicans are successful in denying employees union representation at the IRS, there would be no reason for them to stop there.

Maybe that’s the point.

To read the full story, visit The Washington Post.

In other news:

The Los Angeles Times: ExxonMobil faces $566,600 in fines related to the February explosion at a refinery in Torrance, California. The explosion injured four workers and sent a quarter-ton of sulfur oxide gas into the air and surrounding community. According to reporter Veronica Rocha, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued 19 citations, most of which were classified as serious. Cal/OSHA said the company failed to address known hazards and “intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards.” Rocha writes: “Cal/OSHA determined the company’s management knew the electrostatic precipitator could explode during a flammable vapor leakage. A safety review in 2007 addressed concerns about the leakage, but the company failed to fix it, according to Cal/OSHA.”

Huffington Post: Delegates to Amnesty International have approved a resolution recommending that the organization develop a policy in support of the full decriminalization of adult consensual sex work worldwide, writes reporter Hilary Hanson. The idea behind the recommendation is that legalizing such sex work will reduce the risk of abuse, exploitation and stigma. Amnesty International has been working on such a policy for the past two years in consultation with sex workers, women’s rights groups, anti-trafficking agencies, HIV/AIDS organizations and others. Hanson writes: “Amnesty has specified that it will continue to advocate that all human trafficking be criminalized ‘as a matter of international law,’ and that sex workers must be protected from exploitation and violence.”

The Hill: Reporter Lydia Wheeler writes that Case Farms, a fast food and supermarket chicken supplier headquartered in North Carolina, faces more than $816,000 in OSHA fines. The agency recently cited the company with 55 health and safety violations, including amputation hazards, lack of personal protective equipment and emergency eye wash stations, improperly stored oxygen cylinders, slip hazards and more. OSHA Chief David Michaels said in an agency news release: “Case Farms is an outrageously dangerous place to work. In the past 25 years, Case Farms has been cited for more than 350 safety and health violations. Despite committing to OSHA that it would eliminate serious hazards, Case Farms continues to endanger the safety and health of its workers. This simply must stop.”

The New York Times: In an op-ed article, author Antonia Crane, a dancer at a strip club, chronicles the unfair workplace conditions and practices she and her co-workers regularly face. Crane writes that she used to work at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco, where workers voted to join Services Employees International Union Local 790 — one of the first unions in the country to cover workers in the sex trade. However, that union effort was successful, in part, because dancers clocked in and paid taxes; whereas, most dancers are classified as independent contractors and don’t benefit from traditional labor protections. Crane writes: “We’re charged for simply showing up for work. I pay the doorman, the D.J., and the manager flat fees as well as hand over a percentage from every lapdance. The ‘dance counter,’ who tallies our lapdances, may intentionally miscalculate pay. When arguments ensue, I’ve seen dancers dismissed or put on probation.”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for more than a decade.

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