It was a hard fight, but one we’re glad to see turned out the right way. The Medicaid provision was one of the key components of the ACA, but it was put at risk by a Supreme Court decision that left it up to the states to accept or decline the funds. Many states have—but others, like Texas, are refusing, leaving millions without coverage.
In New Hampshire, the state House—which supports accepting expanded funds—is working to craft a measure that will be able to get through the Republican-controlled Senate. This may mean a commission will be created to review the issue.
Unfortunately, in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure to accept expanded funds. The bill, which would cover 60,000 people, passed by strong but not quite veto-proof margins, so the fate of Medicaid in Maine remains unclear.
The managers and directors at my office threaten to fire employees for things that are personal and non-work-related. I’ve been called stupid and had something thrown at me by my boss. The president of the company travels 99% of the time, so these higher-ups do not have to answer to anyone. I’ve looked up workplace bullying to find that it does not fall under Title VII, nor is it acknowledged at all. How can employees defend themselves against these threats? Why is bullying not allowed in schools but is allowed in the workplace? What gives managers and directors the right to viciously attack employees? Can you help? Thanks so much.
— Standing Up, Connecticut
Hey, before you read my answer to this week’s question, I want to highlight the release of our new two-tiered website, FixMyJob.com and OrganizeWith.US. I’ve previewed the site in this column before, but now we’re officially up and running. Check it out and let me know what you think. And send the link to that friend or neighbor who you know is dealing with a problem right now, because he or she doesn’t have to go it alone.
It’s astonishing to me whenever I see adults who haven’t outgrown bullying. For some people, the whole reason to have a position of power is that you can mistreat people under you. When it’s the person who sets your schedule, your assignments or your pay, it’s especially intimidating.
No one deserves this treatment. Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far or long to find other examples of this far-too-common problem. Judging from the number of submissions on this topic as well as what I’ve found just talking to workers directly, it feels like workplace bullying is practically an epidemic. According to a 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute:
35% of the U.S. workforce (an estimated 53.5 million Americans) report being bullied at work; an additional 15% witness it. Half of all Americans have directly experienced it. Simultaneously, 50% report neither experiencing nor witnessing bullying. Hence, a “silent epidemic.”
You’re correct that Title VII—the federal anti-discrimination law—does not outlaw bullying or harassment in general, only harassment that is based on characteristics like the employee’s race, gender or religion, among others. However, that does not mean it is legal for employers to treat employees this way. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes that workers have a right to a workplace free of violence, and that workplace violence includes both physical and verbal abuse. In some states there’s a growing push to stop this kind of abusethrough legislation.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. From the sound of it, you’re far from the only person getting this mistreatment, so it’s worth thinking about talking with other employees about what they’re experiencing. And it’s not a bad idea to keep detailed notes of what’s happening and who witnessed it. The biggest advantage a bully can have is the belief that his or her victim will keep quiet.
Don’t forget, most employees in the private sector have the right under the National Labor Relations Act to join together in demanding a stop to this abuse. And you can start by visiting FixMyJob.com.
In North Carolina, Working America members are fighting attacks on our right to vote. Our Republican-controlled state legislature is proposing drastic changes to voting, including cutting early voting days, ending same-day registration, and implementing voter ID laws. All of these measures simply restrict access to the polls, hitting seniors and low income earners the hardest.
Right now, North Carolina has 17 days set aside for early voting. During the 2012 election, more than 50 percent of ballots cast occurred prior to Election Day. Craig Alston, a Working America member, is especially concerned for what shortening early voting days means for him and his community. “Having more than 2 weeks of early voting is beneficial in order to find time to cast my ballot,” Craig says. “I work 12 hour shifts, and having these multiple options enables me to vote.”
The state legislature also wants to require everyone to have a state-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, to be able to vote. According to the Board of Elections, about 10 percent of North Carolinians don’t have a driver’s license–many of them being seniors, low-income folks, and people with disabilities. Requiring everyone to have a picture ID is unnecessary and unfair. It imposes a cost on the simple act of voting, including travel to the DMV and the cost associated with getting necessary documents like a birth certificate.
Florence Price-Harrell says voter ID laws would restrict access to voting for people in her own life. “One of my best friends is sick and is in a wheelchair,” Florence says. “She has not driven for 11 years. With her limited transportation, requiring her to have a picture ID would make it even harder for her to vote. Like her, there are many voters across our state that would struggle to access and afford transportation to the DMV in order to obtain a picture ID.”
Our members have gathered petitions to Governor McCrory, written letters to the editor, and spoken out to defend the right to vote. And they’re not alone: The North Carolina NAACP has been organizing protests in Raleigh against to the state legislature’s attacks on voting rights. The protests have been drawing thousands of people from across the state, gaining national attention.
North Carolinians like Craig and Florence are committed to defending everyone’s right to vote.
On June 15, hundreds of working families from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio will come together for the Middle Class Survival Rally in Monroe, Mich. The goal of the rally is to educate people about the ongoing attacks on working families in the United States.
Mike Smith, AFL-CIO Community Services liaison to the United Way of Monroe County, Mich., expanded upon the goals of the rally:
This is a movement, something we want everybody to be involved in. This is about Michigan and Ohio coming together. We share a border and we share a lot of members. Many of the local unions in the Toledo area go into Monroe County. This is about everybody working together, going in the same direction.
Ray Wood of UAWLocal 14 said the rally is open to the public: “It’s not a union issue, it is an everyone issue because what the unions have done is improve the quality of working life for everyone.”
Local 14 Secretary-Treasurer Mark Buford explained why the rally is important:
Your rights as a worker, your wages, your benefits are all under attack. Some companies are knocking people down to part-time and if you are looking for work and you are able to find a job, the wages are very low in a lot of cases. People have to stand up soon.
The rally will be held Saturday, June 15, from noon until 5 p.m. on Dog Lady Island in Monroe. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will address the crowd.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an investigation into working conditions at Sewon America’s LaGrange, Ga., facility after an employee, Teresa Weaver Pickard, died after allegedly being forced to work in extreme heat. Sewon, a company that provides auto parts to Kia, denies Pickard’s death was work-related, but an anonymous source at the plant has disputed Sewon’s account of the tragedy.
Michael D’Aquino, an OSHA public affairs officer for the agency’s Atlanta-West office, confirmed the investigation, the LaGrange Citizen reports:
“We’ll be visiting the [Sewon plant] trying to learn what happened and in what order,” D’Aquino said. “We’ll be looking at physical evidence as well as talking to eyewitnesses and learning as much as possible about the incident.” OSHA also will look at previous reports of misconduct by Sewon, potentially including the 2010 death of a worker who fell 50 feet in a construction accident.
While the Troup County coroner’s office has not released details of its investigation, which has been sent to the state crime lab in Atlanta, the LaGrange Citizen says an anonymous employee reported several details of the incident and work conditions at the factory that are troubling. The employee, who has worked at the location for two years, told the newspaper the assembly line was unbearably hot because the air conditioner on the line wasn’t working properly and several employees in the last week passed out while working.
“I heard that [Pickard] complained of chest pain several times before she was sent to the break room,” the newspaper quotes the employee as saying. Pickard was sent to a break room at that point, but that room also had no air conditioning, something the employee said management does to discourage loitering in the break room. The room was so hot, he said, candy in the vending machines melted. Pickard eventually was sent to the front office, where the employee said Pickard sat for three hours before an ambulance was called. Pickard reportedly died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Sewon says it conducted a “thorough” preliminary investigation and concluded Pickard’s death was not work-related:
On May 29, Mrs. Pickard arrived to the line at 6:30 a.m. Then, on or about 8:26 a.m., the management was made aware of Mrs. Pickard’s condition. The EMS was immediately contacted around 8:27 a.m. and EMS arrived about 8:37 a.m. Mrs. Pickard entered the ambulance under her own strength around 8:42 a.m. and left the facility to go to the hospital.
The lawyer for the Pickard family, Robert Bruner, told the newspaper the company’s press release was, at best, misleading, and that the company was not forthcoming with the family about the reasons for the death.
The anonymous employee reported work conditions at the plant are similar to a sweatshop. “It’s a really hostile environment,” the newspaper quoted. “I think [the managers] seek to create an adversarial relationship with employees,” he said. “If they had hot pokers, they’d stab you with them…. I really believe they have contempt for their workers.”
Sewon was fined $135,900 by OSHA for safety violations three years ago. “There is no reason to leave employees unprotected,” said Andre Richards, then-director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Office. “Management is aware of the deficiencies in their safety and health program and needs to take action.”
With the rapid rise of worker centers and alternate ways to gain a voice on the job, a traditional union is no longer the only way to organize and bargain for paid sick leave, a raise and other workplace rights. Just look at the Walmart strikers and restaurant workers speaking out about the need for paid sick leave. Worker centers representing domestic and food service workers and groups like the Dancers’ Alliance and Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, are expanding the definition of what it means to be a part of the labor movement.
For those of you who have never heard of Netroots Nation, here’s what it’s all about:
Each year, thousands of bloggers, newsmakers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grassroots organizers and online activists come together to make new connections, hone their organizing skills, share best practices and build stronger relationships with others working on the issues they care most about. And each year, some of the brightest minds in progressive politics come to Netroots Nation to speak with—and hear from—our community.
Moderating the Alt-Labor discussion is digital organizer and co-founder of Coworker.org Jess Kutch. Joining her are Galen Hooks, a choreographer and chair of the Dancers’ Alliance, organizer David Wehde of Working America, Jennifer Angarita, who runs the AFL-CIO National Worker Center Partnership program, and Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement.
Stay tuned for the wrap of this exciting discussion on the AFL-CIO Now blog and more updates from Netroots by following the hashtag #NN13 on Twitter.
Elsewhere at Netroots, union members and allies will be out in full force, participating in the ever popular “Hug a Union Thug” booth (stay tuned for new pictures here), a pre-conference lowdown on firefighting 101 from Fire Fighters (IAFF), as well as a chance to get up close and personal with a fire truck and gear; and checking out the Laborers (LIUNA) mobile training unit on solar panels, as well as Made In America booths (think Ghirardelli chocolates) and union-made beer tastings.
Working America will host a game show, “Can My Boss Do That?” and spread the word about the new organizing site, FixMyJob.com.