Tag Archives: USW

USA: USW on The Leslie Marshall Show – Safety is every worker’s right

Ashlee Fitch from the USW’s Health, Safety and Environment department joined The Leslie Marshall Show to talk about Workers’ Memorial Day, as well as the rolling back of many critical Obama-era worker protections and the risk that places on America’s work force.

“A lot of workers’ rights have been coming under the microscope and coming under attack, and health and safety is no different,” Fitch said regarding the Trump administration’s slashing of OSHA staff and regulations.

“We fought for almost 40 years to even get a beryllium standard pushed through,” she said, “and once we did, the [Trump] administration quickly rolled back those protections for workers who are in the construction industry and in the maritime industry.”

Each year, 11,500 shipyard and construction workers, including Steelworkers at Newport News, Va., are exposed to beryllium, a toxic element laced through the coal waste often used in abrasive blasting grits. Beryllium inhalation has long been known to cause lung cancer and berylliosis, a debilitating and often fatal respiratory illness.

Workplace violence is also a major health and safety issue for all working people, but particularly health care workers, and the union is currently working in Washington to urge Congress to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. The vital bill would issue an occupational safety and health standard that requires covered employers within the health care and social service industries to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan.

“When you look at the rates of violence against health care workers, the rates are 12 times higher than the overall work force,” Fitch said. “We saw this and recognized that we have a lot of things going on in our workplaces that don’t align with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

One of the hopes for the bill is that it will strengthen workers’ ability to report acts of violence they experience on the job, especially immigrant workers, who often fear punishment via harassment and even deportation.

Listen to the full Leslie Marshall interview on Soundcloud

https://m.usw.org/news/media-center/articles/2019/usw-on-the-leslie-marshall-show-safety-is-every-workers-right

Canada: Paper and related workers start year long safety campaign on 28 April

United Steelworkers

Global unions target safety at work in pulp, paper, graphical and packaging in a year of action

CONTACT:
Leeann Foster, lfoster@usw.org, 412-225-5964
Jess Kamm Broomell, jkamm@usw.org, 412-562-2444

Workers in the pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors, represented globally by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, are using this 2019 Workers Memorial Day to kick off a yearlong campaign around the three fundamental worker rights needed to make work safe: (1) The Right to Know – workers must know the hazards and risks in their workplace; (2) The Right to Act (commonly known as the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work Without Punishment); and (3) the Right to Participate in the programs and structures that manage safety in the workplace.  Each of these Rights will be highlighted with action by workers across the global pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors.

May and June 2019 will focus on a Worker’s Right to Know. Right-to-Know laws typically focus on a worker’s right to know the hazardous substances and dangerous chemicals they work with, but workers require information on so much more that could endanger them at work.  Workers require:

  • Information on all workplace hazard information, including dangerous chemicals and materials but also hazardous tools, equipment, work processes and the way work is organized;
  • An accurate evaluation of hazards.  Where gaps in knowledge exist they should be filled;
  • Hazard and risk assessment done with workers participation.  The only people with the moral authority to assess a risk are those who must face it;
  • This means industrial hygiene surveys belong to workers.  Toxicology studies belong to workers.  Ergonomic surveys belong to workers.

“We invite the global pulp, paper and packaging sectors to work with workers and their representatives to fully facilitate the right to know and, by doing so, build safer and healthier workplaces, “ said Joaquina Rodriguez, president of UNI Graphical and Packaging.

“All health and safety standards exist because of trade union action and we invite the pulp, paper, graphical and packaging industries to share information and build safety programs together with their workers who know the work and its hazards better than anyone else, “ said Leeann Foster, IndustriALL Pulp and Paper Working Group Co-Chair and Assistant to the International President at the  United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW).

Similar international mobilizations will be conducted in September/October 2019 around the Right to Act and focusing March/April 2020 on the Right to Participate, culminating with Workers Memorial Day 2020.

Workers Memorial Day, observed by unions across the globe on April 28 of each year, is dedicated to remembering those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the struggle for safe jobs.  Worldwide, more than 380,000 workers die tragically at work each year, and another 2.4 million die from work-related illness.

The pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors are extremely dangerous, with a number of fatalities and even more life-altering injuries occurring across the globe annually. Transparency with workers on information relating to their health and safety and employer engagement with workers and their unions is fundamental to address loss of life and limb in the industry.

The two international unions, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, bring together unions on all continents across these four industries. See more on the two global union websites: www.industriall-union.org and www.uniglobalunion.org.

Canada: On 28 April USW Director Steve Hunt calls for stronger enforcement of the Westray safety law

Message from Director Steve Hunt

APRIL 28TH Day of Mourning

Close to 1,000 workers in Canada die on the job every year.

Case after case shows that many of these deaths are preventable yet they still resulted in no Criminal Code charges, sometimes barely mustering a slap on the wrist or a fine that employers dismiss as the cost of doing business.

The law has been on the books since the United Steelworkers successfully lobbied to make the Westray Law a reality by making employer negligence contributing to a worker’s death or serious injury be treated as a criminal offence. But we have more work to do to make police, prosecutors and health and safety regulators aware and equipped to enforce it.

That is why we need to keep asking questions. Why are some police agencies willing to use the law while others are not? Why are health and safety agencies reluctant to work with police? Why are Crown attorneys avoiding prosecutions?  When asked if we are “looking to put every CEO in jail?” –  the answer is no. However, just like other criminal laws, we know the power of deterrence is critical to see the societal change necessary to keep our members and other workers alive.

We are starting to see progress being made with police protocols in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland- Labrador.  Today we have witnessed the successful prosecution of criminal charges filed under the Westray Law.  The work of USW activists and allies are making change a reality.

More charges are being laid across the country. More regulators and police are co-operating. Employers’ lawyers are warning them they too could face prosecution for failing to respect workers’ health and safety.

In British Columbia Premier John Horgan has pledged to ensure police and prosecutors have the resources they need to enforce the Westray Law.  We are making change. But, as long as too many employers are still getting away with fines, the fight has to continue.

Without pressure from USW members across Canada, we know that workplace deaths will not get the law enforcement attention they deserve and Crown prosecutors will continue to treat this as a regulatory issue and not a criminal one.

It’s far from perfect, and more work remains to be done, but Steelworkers can be proud that they have improved and saved the lives of working Canadians, union and non-union alike. Equally important, we have trained hundreds of health and safety activists who work every day to keep our members safe. We’ve trained even more to lobby and be politically active to ensure workers’ voices are heard by politicians of every stripe. Because if we don’t fight, who will?

We know every day that the laws that protect workers’ health and safety are meaningless unless they are enforced.   That is why we keep fighting.  So this April 28th yes we mourn for the dead, but we will rededicate ourselves to continue to fight for the living and keep our members safe on the job.