June 21, 2016 Kim Krisberg 0Comment

At Reveal, Will Evans investigates how lobbyists for the temporary staffing industry squashed a legislative effort in Illinois to reform the industry’s widespread discriminatory hiring practices. Evans has previously reported on how the temp industry discriminates against workers of color, particularly black workers, using code words, symbols and gestures to illegally hire workers according to sex, race and age.

In Illinois, the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative developed legislation to confront such hiring practices. Illinois Senate Bill 47 would have required temp agencies to track the race and gender of job applicants, but it never got a final vote. Of the bill’s debate, Evans writes:

The debate echoed the tensions between black and Latino laborers competing for minimum-wage jobs on the streets of Chicago.

It’s a dynamic playing out in cities across the country, as some employers choose Latinos for jobs black workers once often had. The clash is particularly sharp in Illinois, with one of the highest rates of black unemployment, far surpassing Latino joblessness.

And that wasn’t the only problem.

Dan Shomon, a lobbyist for an alliance of temp agencies, said the proposed law would create a paperwork nightmare costing businesses millions of dollars. Shomon is also executive director of the Staffing Services Association of Illinois, which he said represents 25 agencies that provide 250,000 jobs a year.

“We oppose discrimination also,” said Shomon, a top aide to Barack Obama during his state and U.S. Senate careers until 2006. He didn’t mention that, just one week before, a board member of his association had signed an $800,000 settlement to resolve government findings of widespread discrimination at his company. Other association members also have been hit with bias claims.

Shomon said the bill’s requirement to track the race and gender of job applicants wasn’t necessary: The federal government already collects that data, he told legislators. He had that wrong, but nobody caught the error. He repeated it a few times.

Read Evan’s full investigation on the defeat of Illinois Senate Bill 47 at Reveal.

In other news:

Lexington Herald Leader: The newspaper reports that thousands of retired coal miners united last week for a rally in Lexington, Kentucky, and called on Congress to protect their health and pension benefits as coal mine operators seek out bankruptcy protections. United Mine Workers of America reports that 22,000 retired union miners, their widows and dependents are at risk of losing their health care benefits unless federal lawmakers take action. The newspaper reports: “Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, told the gathering of more than 3,500 members that union miners spent their careers working in dangerous places to provide America’s electricity and steel and make it the most prosperous nation on Earth. Some retirees arrived in wheelchairs while others walked with canes or carried oxygen bottles, underscoring the health problems union members said a career underground can cause.”

The New York Times: Anjali Singhvi reports on the killing of journalists and the rare instances in which such murders are prosecuted, writing that of the nearly 1,200 journalists killed since 1992, prosecutions have occurred in less than 3 percent of cases. Iraq, Somalia, Syria and the Philippines were home to the highest rates of unpunished journalist killings, with the majority of those killed being local journalists covering stories in their own communities. Singhvi writes: “The Islamic State has been responsible for the deaths of at least 24 journalists since 2013, mostly in Iraq, but also in Syria, Turkey and France. The group began abducting journalists for ransom, and many were tortured before being killed.”

Chicago Tribune: Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz reports that the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Audit has unanimously approved an earned sick time ordinance. The proposed ordinance would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of work, with a cap of five sick days per 12 months. The full City Council is supposed to consider the sick leave ordinance this week. Elejalde-Ruiz writes: “The measure is meant to protect people like Noemi Hernandez, who works as a bartender at a restaurant on Navy Pier. Hernandez, 26, said she had a decision to make this week when her 8-year-old daughter woke up with a bloody nose: Should she assume it was no big deal, perhaps a reaction to the hot weather, and head to work for her double shift? Or should she stay with her daughter, forgo the day’s wages and risk angering her boss?”

Billings Gazette: Amy Dalrymple reports that OSHA is investigating the death of Johnny Stassinos, 52, who was working at an oil well site this past weekend near Watford City, North Dakota, when the well ignited, killing him and injuring three fellow workers. Two of the injured workers experienced third-degree burns over 70 percent of their bodies. The workers were employed by Most Wanted Well Service and SEI Well Service, according to a representative of the well’s owner, XTO, which is a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. Stassinos’ death was the second worker fatality in the Bakken oil fields in four days: OSHA also recently received a report of a worker being crushed to death, though the agency was awaiting more detailed information.

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.

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