Archives for August, 2012

It’s Tuesday evening and as usual, the small parking lot outside the Workers Defense Project on Austin’s eastside is packed. The dusty lot is strewn with cars and pick-up trucks parked wherever they can fit and get in off the road. I’ve arrived well before the night’s activities begin, so I easily secure a spot. But my gracious guide and translator, a college intern named Alan Garcia, warns me that I might get blocked in. It happens all the time, he says.

A few recent pieces worth a look.

A Food Chain Worker Alliance survey of food industry workers — including agricultural and farmworkers, food processing and slaughterhouse employees, and those working in food distribution and retail — found that 86% earned low or poverty wages.

OSHA action on worker safety standards during Presidential election years

During the last seven Presidential election years, OSHA has an interesting record of issuing new rules on worker safety issues despite the heated national campaigns.

For six months, Jorge Rubio worked at a local chain of tortilla bakeries and taquerias in the cities of Brownsville and San Benito, both in the very southern tip of Texas. Rubio, 42, prepared the food, cleaned equipment, served customers. Eventually, he decided to quit after being overworked for months. On his last day of work, his employer refused to pay him the usual $50 for an 11-hour workday.

An NEJM piece offers some advice and cautions about health insurance exchanges — a key to the Affordable Care Act’s success — based on the experiences of the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Occupational Health News Roundup

A News & Observer series on employers who break workers’ compensation laws spurs a promise of action from North Carolina’s governor; safety initiatives address hazards in Northeast fisheries; and seven former General Motors workers sew their mouths shut as part of a hunger strike over the company’s treatment of workers.

No shortage of ideas from OSHA staff to improve oversight of agency’s Voluntary Protection Program

An internal OSHA report on the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) was submitted to agency leadership nine months ago, and released to the public this week. The group made 34 recommendations to improve the program, including several addressing fatalities occurring at VPP sites.

On memorializing miners

The newly unveiled granite memorial in Whitesville, WV is a visible reminder of the 29 miners who were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine, but the truest measure of our recognition of their sacrifice is what we do in their memory to protect the living.

Recent New York Times and Washington Post stories on activities at certain HCA hospitals and the nationwide use of anemia drugs show how profit-maximizing practices can sometimes put patients’ lives at risk.