Occupational Health News Roundup

By | 2018-03-08T17:21:50+00:00 March 8th, 2018|0 Comments

At Vox, Alexia Fernández Campbell reports that the West Virginia teachers strike is inspiring fellow teachers around the country to take action as well. Teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona — both among the lowest-paid teachers in the nation — say they’re ready to walk out unless state policymakers start spending more on education. Arizona lawmakers are offering only a 1 percent raise for teachers, while Oklahoma is proposing none.

Campbell writes:

“It’s been a powder keg here for a while,” said Noah Karvelis, an elementary school music teacher in the Phoenix area. “Our backs are against the wall; we have nothing else.”

The strike in West Virginia spurred Karvelis to mobilize teachers in Arizona on social media. On Sunday, they created a private Facebook group, Arizona Educators United, and within 36 hours, they had 8,000 members. The teachers are now weighing whether to strike and organized a statewide campaign to wear red on Wednesday as the first step.

In Oklahoma, teachers are even further along with their own plan. The Oklahoma Education Association, a professional group that represents 35,000 educators in the state, said teachers are ready for a walkout if state lawmakers do not raise taxes and give teachers a proper raise. On Thursday, they plan to present the governor with a list of demands, which includes a $10,000 raise for teachers.

“Everything we have tried has failed,” said Alicia Priest, president of the association. “What [happened] in West Virginia is giving teachers hope, myself included, that we can be change agents.” In an online survey, about 80 percent of the group’s members who responded said they support the idea of closing schools.

While labor unions have played a role in building the momentum, many teachers are ready to “burn down the house,” Priest said.

The frustration has been years in the making. It’s part of a backlash brewing in Republican states that have gutted school spending to offset deep tax cuts for businesses and wealthy earners.

Read the full story at Vox.

In other news:

Reuters: Daniel Wiessner and Jonathan Stempel report that a U.S. appeals court has decided in favor of a funeral director who was fired after telling her supervisor she planned to transition from male to female, ruling that federal law banning sex bias in the workplace also bans discrimination against transgender workers. In particular, the court ruled that the funeral home failed to argue that federal civil rights law “substantially burdened” the owner’s ability to exercise his religious rights. While previous courts have ruled that discriminating against transgender workers is a form of sex bias, this was the first case to consider religion as a defense. The ACLU called the decision “an exciting and important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country.”

Austin American-Statesman: Two weeks after Austin became the first Texas city to pass a paid sick leave ordinance for privately employed workers, the City Council voted to extend the same protections to its temporary city workers. Philip Jankowski reports that the most recent measure will allow city government employees who work 80 hours or more in a given year the ability to accrue sick time; full-time city employees already receive paid sick leave. The city’s new sick leave measures, which go into effect in October, let temporary city workers and most private-sector workers earn up to 64 hours of paid sick leave; for smaller businesses, workers can earn up to 48 hours of leave. Council member Greg Casar, who sponsored the paid leave measures, said of the temp worker protection: “I don’t think we are acting too quickly. I think we are acting too late. I think all of our staff should have had sick time long before anyone on this dais was elected.”

The Guardian: Sam Levin reports that a new analysis finds the median profit for ride-hailing drivers is $8.55 an hour, with more than half of drivers surveyed making an hourly profit that’s less than their state’s minimum wage and 8 percent of drivers losing money on the job. The study, published by MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, factored in costs such as insurance, maintenance, vehicle repairs and fuel. The new analysis is actually a revised version of an initial one that found a median profit of just $3.37 per hour among workers for ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Levin writes: “Judith Chevalier, a Yale professor who has studied Uber wage data and criticized the initial report as ‘way off,’ said of the revised analysis: ‘It’s definitely closer to the zone.’”

The Hill: Lydia Wheeler reports that congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would stop employers from taking workers’ tips. The legislation comes in response to a proposed rule from the Department of Labor that would let employers pool the tips of workers who earn minimum wage and portion them out to non-tipped workers. Opponents, however, argue the rule would make it easier for employers to simply pocket the tips for themselves. More specifically, the legislation — introduced by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Katherine Clark, D-Mass. — would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to make all tips the property of workers. Wheeler reports that during a House hearing, Clark asked DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta if he would support a law giving workers full ownership of the tips they earn — he responded, “Absolutely.”

About the Author:

Kim Krisberg
Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health reporter living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for more than 15 years. Follow me on Twitter — @kkrisberg — or send me story ideas at kkrisberg@yahoo.com.

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