Occupational Health News Roundup

Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which many workers still rely on to assure that they can return to their jobs after taking unpaid time off for a new baby or to deal with a serious illness – their own or a family member’s. But, NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports, 40% of the workforce is ineligible for the leave, including those working fewer than 25 hours per week with an employer (even if they have multiple part-time jobs), workers at businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and those who want to care for a family member who doesn’t meet the official “family” designation, like a same-sex partner or grandparent.

Expanding FMLA coverage is one goal for worker advocates, but, Ludden notes, it’s not the ultimate one:

With so many gaps and such confusion, the main debate over work and family has moved away from the FMLA and back to the original aim of those who pushed for the law: paid family leave.

Grass-roots organizations have been pushing such measures in states and cities across the country in recent years.

California and New Jersey have both passed a paid family leave insurance program in the past decade, and advocates hope they might be a model for federal legislation. They hope that will happen before another 20 years pass.

Connecticut is currently the only state with a requirement for paid sick leave; DC, Seattle, and San Francisco all have paid sick leave laws, although DC’s has the problem of not applying to tipped restaurant workers. The Portland, Oregon City Council will vote in March on an ordinance requiring employers to offer earned sick time to workers, and two small-business groups are among the measure’s supporters.

In other news:

PBS Frontline: In a UCLA pilot study, researchers performed brain scans on five former NFL players and identified buildups of tau protein similar to those in the brains of dead football players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This is the first time such damage has been identified in living patients, and suggests it may be possible to diagnose CTE in living patients.

Associated Press: A police officer protecting polio vaccination workers in northwestern Pakistan was shot and killed. This follows the December killings of nine polio workers across Pakistan. Deans of schools of public health (here, too) decry the CIA’s sham vaccination campaign that broke the bond of public trust required for any successful vaccination campaign.

Washington Post: The DC City Council will consider legislation requiring “safe staffing” levels at city hospitals, with specific nurse-to-patient ratios depending on the hospital unit.

Wonkblog (Washington Post): As Mexico gets richer, fewer of its citizens will want to cross the border to work under grueling conditions on US farms.

New York Times: In Bangladesh, another fire in a clothing factory with a locked exit has killed garment workers. The blaze at Smart Garment Export in Dhaka killed seven women and left eight more hospitalized.

 

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