Inflatable Rat Is Protected Free Speech
In a victory for unions engaging in picketing and informational campaigns, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit found that a union has a First Amendment right to display an inflatable rat balloon. The decision in Laborers Local Union No. 330 v. Town of Grand Chute (August, 2016), overturned a lower court decision that dismissed the union's claims.
The lawsuit challenged a demand by the town of Grand Chute that Laborers' Local 330 remove an inflatable rat that was being used as part of an area standards campaign against a masonry contractor. The rat was located on a public rightof- way adjacent to the construction project where the contractor was working. Grand Chute demanded the rat be removed, alleging that the rat violated a local sign ordinance.
The union took the matter to federal court claiming a violation of the Union's rights under the First Amendment to engage in speech on public property. The union pointed out that Grand Chute did not enforce the sign ordinance against other signs and was, in essence, targeting the union's First Amendment speech. The District Court dismissed the complaint, finding that the sign ordinance had the purpose of protecting community aesthetics and safety.
The Court of Appeal overturned the District Court's decision, returned the case back to the District Court, and provided extensive guidelines for reviewing the case on remand.
Nathan Eisenberg, Attorney
Previan Law Firm
Labor Law Violators Can't Get
Under a new Obama executive order, companies that want to bid on contracts will have to disclose to the government whether they ran afoul of laws covering workplace safety, workplace discrimination, labor organizing rights, or minimum wage and overtime during the previous three years. The necessary disclosures would include an official finding by a federal agency, a judgment from a court or an award from an arbitrator.
The new regulations cover only "the most egregious" violations. For instance, if an employer had been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it would have to disclose a violation deemed "serious" or "willful," but not the more common, run-of-themill violations that tend to pop up through inspections. The administration estimates that less than 10 percent of contractors will run into problems because of the provisions.
You break the government's law, you can't get the government's business. That seems sensible enough. However, some business groups vehemently oppose the regulation and lobbied to have it watered down or spiked. Along with Republicans in Congress, they have dubbed it the "blacklisting rule," claiming it would add more red tape and unfairly prevent firms from securing federal contracts.
Thanks to the president's executive order, though, worker protection laws will increasingly have teeth, at least for companies that want to do business with the government. By Laura Clawson, Daily KOS Labor
IAM Grand Lodge Convention
Your chance to make a difference!
By Jim Beno
District 190 Directing Business Representative
delegates being sent to the upcoming convention.
Many locals have submitted proposals to amend the Constitution. These proposals will be debated and voted on at the convention. The proposals range from changes in election procedures to reduced per capita taxes for low wage earners.
This should prove to be a very engaging convention. We will report the results of the convention in the next edition of the Sparkplug.
September 4-9, 2016 Chicago, Illinois
Official Notice of Nomination and Election of Delegates to the Grand Lodge Convention
At the regular monthly meeting of each Local Lodge in the month of April, a nomination of delegates and alternate delegates to the Grand Lodge Convention shall be held.
At the regular monthly meeting of each Local Lodge in the month of May, an election of delegates and alternate delegates by secret ballot to the Grand Lodge Convention shall be held.
Workers' Lives Matter
New Reports: Workers' Comp Not Working For Ill And Injured Workers
At least 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses occur in the U.S. every year, and the century-old Workers' Compensation system is intended to provide financial and medical relief to affected workers. Two recent reports one from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and one from NPR and ProPublica revealed how the Workers' Comp safety net is being torn to shreds.
As originally conceived, Workers' Comp was a tradeoff: Workers gave up their right to sue employers for on-the-job injuries. In exchange, they received certainty that employers would pay medical bills and wage support while they were recovering.
Employers are still getting their end of the bargain: You can't sue your boss for a work-related injury. But the medical benefits and wage support that workers are supposed to receive are now much harder to get and stingier for those who do receive them.
The OSHA report, Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job concluded that it is taxpayers and the workers themselves who are bearing the costs of employers' failure to pay fair compensation to injured workers: "State legislatures and courts have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the payments for lost wages and medical expenses that they deserve. As a result of this cost-shifting, workers' compensation payments cover only a small fraction (about 21%) of lost wages and medical costs of work injuries and illnesses; workers, their families and their private health insurance pay for nearly 63% of these costs, with taxpayers shouldering the remaining 16%."
The OSHA report also makes clear that most ill and injured workers remain entirely uncompensated by Workers' Comp. One cited research report found "that as many as 97% of workers with occupational injuries are uncompensated."
The blistering NPR/ProPublica series echoes many of the same themes. According to reporters Howard Berkes and Michael Grabell: "Over the last dozen years, 33 states have passed legislation to reduce Workers' Comp benefits or make it more difficult for ill or injured workers to qualify. After warehouse worker Joel Ramirez's spinal column was crushed on the job in 2009, he was able to get a home health aide through Workers' Comp. But he lost this critical support service after new legislation to limit benefits was passed in his home state of California.
Benefits differ dramatically from state to state. A worker who loses a leg on the job in Pennsylvania might get as much as $389,910 in Workers' Comp benefits. A worker with the same injury in Alabama would get a maximum of $44,000.
Employers are paying the lowest rates for workers' comp insurance in a quarter-century. In the mid-nineties, for instance, employers in the state of Montana paid $6.91 for every $100 paid in workers' wages. In 2014, they pay less than a third of that.
As payments to workers have eroded, the insurance companies providing workers' comp insurance continue to do well. The authors cite economist John Burton's report that "nationally, workers' compensation insurance was at near-record levels of profitability in 2013."
The reports reinforce what health and safety advocates have been saying for years. "All workers need access to Workers' Comp," says Mary Vogel, Executive Director of National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. "Employers and the insurance industry have pushed for so-called 'reform' that is in fact just pushing America's ill and injured workers into abject poverty."