Archives for May, 2016

Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the number of Texans without health insurance. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of uninsured Texas residents has dropped by 30 percent. That means the Texas uninsured rate has hit its lowest point in nearly two decades.

“In my darker hours when I’m sleeping at night, that’s where I go.” Those are words from Eric Blank, senior director for public health systems at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), talking about the enormous difficulties that public health labs faced in confronting the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Now he fears that without emergency federal funds and in the face of new funding cuts, Zika virus will force the nation’s critical public health lab network into that same scenario — or into something even worse.

Federal investment in controlling infectious diseases has saved lives and averted economic losses in the past. But without sustained support for public health and preparedness, we’ll remain at risk.

Eat poultry? Data reveals brands that self-inspect under controversial USDA program

Dozens of poultry plants no longer have a team of USDA personnel inspecting chicken and turkey carcasses. A food safety group used the Freedom of Information Act so the public can know which brands are partaking in this public-health deregulation.

A ‘hidden’ workforce of foreign workers at a Tesla plant in California; Illinois legislators pass a domestic workers bill of rights; Congress uses a spending bill to weaken safety rules for truckers; and lawsuits over workplace leave policies spike way up.

Last summer, 25-year-old Roendy Granillo died of heat stroke while he installed flooring in a house in Melissa, Texas, just north of Dallas. His tragic and entirely preventable death marked a turning point in advocacy efforts to pass a rest break ordinance for local construction workers.

Blame the railroad industry and lobbyists, not the Amtrak engineer

One member of the NTSB challenged her colleagues’ proclivity for citing “operator error.” Her remarks came during this week’s hearing on the May 2015 Amtrak train derailment that killed eight passengers.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has signed into law the Contraceptive Equity Act, which puts the state at the forefront of efforts to reduce insurance-plan barriers to accessing multiple forms of contraception.

Hardly a day goes by lately without another story on companies like Uber and their model of classifying workers as independent contractors while treating them more like traditional employees and sidestepping traditional employer responsibilities. It’s a model that has serious implications for workers’ rights and wages. However, there’s another form of employment that may be even more damaging to hard-fought labor standards: subcontracting.

Catching up with the times, new OSHA injury reporting rule

The FAA updates its website daily with aircraft safety incident reports linked to ownership data. MSHA promptly posts injury, illness, and close-call incidents reported by every US mining operation. OSHA’s plan for 2018 to post annual injury data for a fraction of US workplaces is just the agency trying to keep up with the times.