Occupational Health News Roundup

On Monday, President Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. He introduced Perez by saying:

Like so many Americans, Tom knows what it’s like to climb the ladder of opportunity.  He is the son of Dominican immigrants.  He helped pay his way through college as a garbage collector and working at a warehouse.  He went on to become the first lawyer in his family.  So his story reminds us of this country’s promise, that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is — you can make it if you try.

And Tom has made protecting that promise — for everybody  — the cause of his life.  As a civil rights attorney, an aide to Senator Ted Kennedy, a member of the Montgomery, Maryland County Council, Tom fought for a level playing field where hard work and responsibility are rewarded and working families can get ahead.

And this is not the first time that he’s chosen to be a labor secretary, either.  We’ve got here today Governor Martin O’Malley, and Martin appointed Tom as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, where he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.

In his current role as the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Tom has fought to open pathways into the workforce for everyone willing to contribute, including people with disabilities, LGBT Americans, and immigrants.  And he has helped settle some of the largest cases ever on behalf of families targeted by unfair mortgage lending.

In his remarks, Perez spoke in both English and Spanish. He told the audience, “My parents taught my four siblings and me to work hard, to give back to our community, and to make sure that the ladder of opportunity was there for those coming after us.”

In other news:

McClatchy Newspapers: A new study of the water system at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that contamination of the base’s drinking water with the carcinogen trichlorethylene started as early as 1948 and peaked in the mid-1980s, with levels reaching more than 150 times as what’s been deemed safe. As many as one million Marines and Marine family members may have been exposed.

Naples (Florida) Daily News: Hundreds of Immokalee farmworkers and supporters concluded a 200-mile march from Immokalee to Lakeland, Florida with a rally outside of Publix Super Market’s corporate headquarters. They invited the company to join the Fair Food Program, which “unites farmworkers, growers, consumers, and 11 retail food leaders in support of fair wages and human labor standards.”

Washington Post: Physicians treating injured National Football League players often face a tough choice between the player’s long-term health and the immediate desires of players and team managers to get the player back on the field.

Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette: A new National Academy of Sciences report recommends a re-evaluation of requirements for mine operators to provide emergency breathing devices for miners’ use during emergencies.

In These Times: Temp workers account for 20% of China’s urban workforce, but they haven’t shared in the incremental improvements of wages and working conditions other workers have won. Temps are often paid less are rarely receive insurance.

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