Monday, April 30, 2012

Working Kansas Alliance President Calls for Jobs

WKA president Terry Forsyth calls for renewed focus on Kansas jobs
Topeka, KS

Source: Working Kansas Alliance, Monday, April 30, 2012

Moments ago we held a press conference in the Kansas Statehouse asking Governor Sam Brown back and the members of the Kansas Legislature to end the war on workers and focus on creating jobs and putting Kansans back to work. We were joined by House Minority Leader, Paul Davis and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley.
Working Kansas Alliance President Terry Forsyth spoke to members today in the state capitol and denounced the growing collection of anti-worker bills being worked on in the Kansas Legislature. He called on Governor Brownback and the Legislature to stop wasting time attacking Workers rights and to turn their focus towards putting Kansans back to work.

“Blaming working families for the sluggish economy is a poor excuse for a jobs plan,” said Forsyth. “We are here to remind the governor and the legislature that this economy didn’t slow down because of the work of firefighters or teachers or highway workers who are making life in Kansas better.”

“Taking away the rights of workers is as short-sighted of an economic policy as raising taxes on the working poor to cut taxes for the wealthy,” Forsyth said. “These bills are an insult to the hardworking men and women of this state who have dedicated their careers to making Kansas a great place to live and only ask for a decent wage and fair treatment in return.”

Forsyth shared with the crowd a list of ten bills being considered by legislative committees that are direct attacks on working families.

“When the governor’s signature policy change for the session is a tax “cut” package that will actually increase taxes on working families, it is safe to say that he has lost touch with Kansas values.

“When the House and Senate Commerce Committees are teed up with bills that taken together dwarf what is going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Arizona, it is clear that what we are dealing with here is a full-blown anti-worker agenda.

“And when a series of bills that will actually create jobs in Kansas are collecting dust in those same committees, it is obvious that this is more about politics than about doing something positive for the working families of Kansas.”

Forsyth called on the Governor and the Legislature to end their blatant attacks on working families and the middle class and to focus on legislation that will actually create jobs for Kansans.

“We demand that this Governor start putting his weight behind legislation that will put Kansans back to work.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rebuild America Act Introduced

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, recently introduced the Rebuild America Act, which offers a path toward a brighter economic future for most Americans. While addressing many of the biggest problems confronting our nation's economy, the bill would provide good jobs for working families, stabilize state and local governments, and update current labor laws.

In enacted, this bill would increase employment by making big investments in rebuilding our roads, bridges, and transportation systems. It would help develop renewable energy, promote manufacturing in the United States, and provide assistance to state and local governments to retain police, firefighters, and teachers. It would also invest in school modernization and help states improve their teachers' effectiveness.

Kim Bobo, the executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, who will be coming to Wichita on May 16-17, said, "The bill offers an excellent vision for investing in jobs, raising core standards and paying for investments in fair and just ways. This is exactly the kind of bill that creates a vision for the future and stimulates conversations about how government can serve the common good."

By raising the minimum wage to $9.80 an hour over a period of three years and then indexing it to inflation, the bill would directly help workers. The bill would also adjust the minimum wage for tipped workers (currently set at $2.13 an hour). Both provisions are long overdue.

The bill would strengthen overtime laws, which have eroded over time, to insure that workers would be paid time and a half for every hour over 40 hours a week. It further would protect the right to join a union and bargain collectively. By taxing all earned income and changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments, it would strengthen Social Security Insurance. It also would provide for paid sick days to care for one's self and one's family.

The Rebuild America Act would add millions of jobs to the economy and raise the typical family's income and enhance its retirement security. It would be paid for by making changes in the tax code that would shift the burden of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal taxation from working and middle class families to those who can afford to pay.

                                                           --source:Interfaith Domestic Human Needs Network

Monday, April 16, 2012

Safe Jobs Save Lives

The workplace is where people go to earn a living. All of us depend on workers to make the clothes we wear, plant and process the food we eat, and manufacture the products we use every day. The shirt I am wearing today was made in Bangladesh. The Fair Trade coffee I drank earlier this morning came from Colombia.The global village is a reality and we are all members of it.

For many workers the workplace is not a safe place. It is a dangerous place. The International Labor Organization reports that worldwide:
     every 15 seconds a worker dies in a work-related incident
     every day 6,300 workers die in work-related incidents
     every year 2.3 million workers die in work-related incidents
Most of these deaths could have been prevented.

My friend the Reverend Dr. Anton Jacobs has been doing some research on workplace deaths in America. He learned that logging is the most dangerous occupation in the United States.Workers in this industry experienced 88.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2007. That is the same rate of deaths per 100,000 that the military reported in 2010--in a time of war. In peacetime, in 1999, the military reported 55 deaths per 100,000.

Those of us living in Kansas remember that on October 29, 2011, an explosion at the Bartlett Grain Company elevator in Atchison killed six people. The four workers killed in that incident were all in their early 20s. The two inspectors killed in the explosion were 34 and 43 years of age.

On April 12, 2012, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) accused the Bartlett Grain Company, which FORBES ranks as among the largest private companies in the United States, of ignoring workplace safety rules, leading to the explosion that caused these deaths. The Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis proposed fines against the company of $406,000 for five willful workplace violations, and $67,500 for eight serious workplace safety violations. The company is contesting the accusations.

The story was reported in the Kansas City Star (April 12, 2012) by Mike McGraw, who wrote that working in grain elevators has "become one of the most dangerous jobs in what has become America's most dangerous industry: agriculture." OSHA reports that in the past 35 years there have been more than 500 explosions in grain handling facilities in the United States, resulting in the deaths of 180 people and causing injury to more than 675 people.

Data complied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in Kansas there were 84 workplace fatalities in 2010; 76 workplace fatalities in 2009; 73 workplace fatalities in 2008; and, 101 workplace fatalities in 2007. National data shows that every day there are 14 workers killed in work-related incidents in America. Thousands of workers die every year from work-related diseases, and millions are injured on the job.

The International Workers Memorial Day is a time to remember and mourn the loss of those who died in work-related incidents.

The first observance of International Workers Memorial Day was held in 1989. The United Nations declared April 28 International Workers Memorial Day in 2001. President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation designating April 28 as Workers Memorial Day in 2010, marking the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.

The International Workers Memorial Day is a day to mourn those who have died in work-related incidents. It is a time to call attention to the need for laws that protect worker safety. It is a time to demand that state and federal agencies charged with enforcing these laws remain vigilant.

This year the AFL-CIO Wichita Hutchinson Labor Federation will observe Workers Memorial Day on April 19. People of faith are asked to remember workers and their families this weekend or next weekend as you gather for worship. The motto for this year's observance is: Safe Job Save Lives.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Workers Memorial Day April 19, 2012

Let me first thank all those who participated in the April 4, 2012 service honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I thought we would be able to post a video of this outstanding event but the person who offered to provide this service experienced technical difficulties and was unable to record it. It is lost opportunity. We do have an audio recording, which I will edit and post. We may be able to get transcripts of some of the presentations. I will post my own written review soon.

As a representative of IWJ Kansas I have the honor of being invited to participate in a Workers Memorial Day Event, April 19th. I would like to encourage faith communities to remember workers killed or injured on the job and their families in your worship on April 20, 21 or 22. "A Prayer for the Fallen" written by Reverend Ian Lawton, which will be included in the service on the 19th, is included below.

Forty years ago in April the OSHA law and mine safety law were enacted promising workers in this country the right to a safe job. All over the country--in town squares and union halls, at worksites and memorials, in community after community--people gather to remember our sisters and brothers who have lost their lives and to fight for safe workplaces and for good jobs for all workers. Please share in this sacred time.

A Prayer for the Fallen by Reverend Ian Lawton

We remember those we have lost with great fondness.
They gave much to the world; as individuals, family members, friends and work colleagues.
We remember their families in their enormous sadness.
For those who have died at work building a better place for the rest of us.
Those who have died while constructing our buildings and expressways, hospitals and schools.
For those who have died young and innocent, victims of avoidable accidents.
May we learn from this loss, honour the memory of those lost
And work towards a safer workplace for all people
Where the rights and dignity of all workers are upheld above all else.