Category Archives: Health & Safety

Steel Magnolias: Labor Allies With the Environmental Movement

Source: David Foster, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

The Donora disaster was the root cause of the USW’s subsequent embrace of environmental issues that led eventually to the founding on June 7, 2006 of a new Strategic Alliance between North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, and the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grass-roots environmental organization. While the decision to align the USW and the Sierra Club originated in their shared history of supporting environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the new Alliance was sparked by the accelerating pace of globalization and the seismic social shifts accompanying it. Both organizations realized that for the first time in human history any meaningful improvement in the economic well-being of the world’s population was dependent on the sustainable management of our planted and its resources.

Shiftwork and the Law

Source: Robert C. Bird and Niki Mirtorabi, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2006, Volume 27, no. 2

… Professors Bird and Mirtorabi examine and describe shiftwork, the growing practice of working non-traditional hours, particularly in the evening and at night. … ” Shiftwork weakens these bonds between parent and child by reducing contact time and requiring children to remain quiet when the shiftworker sleeps during daylight hours. … If the court in Witter can reject ADA coverage for an employee claiming a psychiatric disability not related to shiftwork, then a court likely will have little difficulty rejecting a pilot’s ADA claim based upon an impairment tied to a particular shift. … Furthermore, the employer’s actions changing the plaintiff to the night shift to accommodate a white employee constituted a component of the harassment leading to an intolerable work environment, and thus constructive discharge. … Without much discussion, the court concluded that “it could not be determined as a matter of law that a permanent transfer to the night shift cannot constitute an adverse employment action. … If at least one court can conclude that working in the face of unnecessary pain and injury can constitute a material disadvantage in employment, certainly transfer to shiftwork, with its host of physical and mental risks, can constitute an adverse employment action under conditions where the effect of shiftwork will be the most severe. …

Labor’s Critical Role in Workplace Health and Safety in California and Beyond—As Labor Shifts Priorities, Where Will Health and Safety Sit?

Source: Marianne P. Brown, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 16 no. 3, 2006

Organized labor has been largely responsible for the health and safety protections many U.S. workers take for granted. This article provides a brief history of labor’s influence on California’s health and safety policies—sometimes with ripple effects beyond its borders. Six cases where various successful strategies were used are examined. These gains were achieved with strong support from international health and safety staff, and, on some issues, support from the state labor federation. But in most cases local union staff involvement was key. Now that labor mobilizes to build its shrinking membership—with only 1 out of 12 workers in the private sector organized—resources are being re-directed toward organizing. Understandably, health and safety advocates have expressed concern that worker protections may suffer. Time will tell, but there is evidence that health and safety demands are front and center in a number of current and upcoming organizing campaigns. Now more than ever, it is in health and safety professionals’ interest to tie their research and clinical work into these emerging campaigns.