Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work: A Proactive Strategy

Source: Thomas A. Kochan, AI Magazine, Vol. 42 No. 1, Spring 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
One of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our time lies in harnessing the innovative potential of emerging technologies to help achieve a more prosperous and just society. Discussions of how to do so are at the center of debates over how artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated tools might affect the future of work. In this article, I will outline a proactive strategy for addressing these issues.

Standards for Surgical Respirators and Masks: Relevance for Protecting Healthcare Workers and the Public During Pandemics

Source: Rachael M Jones, David Rempel, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 65, Issue 5, June 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
National standards for surgical respirators and masks are written and enforced to protect healthcare workers from particles and microorganisms such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In addition to the ability to filter particles (e.g. filtration efficiency, FE), the standards address breathability (e.g. differential pressure), how well the mask seals to a worker’s face (e.g. fit test), the level of protection from a fluid splash, and other factors. Standards used in the USA, European Union (EU), and China were compared with respect to testing methods and certification criteria. Although there are substantial similarities in standards for respirators, such as surgical N95, FFP2, and KN95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), there are differences with respect to who performs that testing and fit-testing requirements that influence certification. There is greater variation in test methods between countries for surgical (USA) or medical (EU and China) masks than for FFRs. Surgical/medical masks can be certified to different levels of protection. The impact of the similarities and differences in testing methods and certification criteria on FFR and mask performance for protecting healthcare workers from SARS-CoV-2 are discussed, as well as the value of a new standard in the EU for testing fabrics for masks used by the public. Health and safety personnel in healthcare settings must understand the differences between standards so that they can select respirators and masks that provide appropriate protection for healthcare workers.

Democrats Don’t Grasp That Unions Can Transform the Electorate

Source: Hamilton Nolan, In These Times, June 8, 2021

Unions are machines for producing people who wouldn’t be satisfied with Joe Manchin’s obstinance.

Our political discussions often focus on how our side can seize an advantage in the context of a sharply divided electorate. Political parties try to motivate their voters and depress voters on the other side — elections are contested for tiny slices of ​“moderates” or ​“undecided voters,” groups that grow ever smaller as polarization increases. But what if there was a tool that could actually transform the way that people think, as voters and as citizens in a functioning democracy? There is such a tool: unions. America in general, and the Democratic Party in particular, needs to start taking the transformative power of unions more seriously.

The prevalence of work-related suicides varies by reporting source from the National Violent Death Reporting System

Source: Corinne Peek-Asa, Ling Zhang, Cara Hamann, Jonathon Davis, Carri Casteel, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 7, July 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Both suicides overall and work-related suicides are increasing in the United States, and efforts to reduce suicide risk will require an understanding of the frequency and role of work in suicides. This study examines the incidence of occupational suicides using the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), which identified the role of work in suicides using the traditional death certificate as well as from death investigations.

NVDRS suicides among those aged 16 through 65 from 2013 through 2017 were examined to determine if the death certificate identified the death as work-related, if the death investigation identified a job problem as a suicide circumstance, and if the death investigation indicated that the job problem was a crisis at the time of the suicide.

Overall, 1.13% of death certificates identified the suicides as work-related, 2.34% of suicides included a job crisis, and 11.2% a job problem, and proportions did not vary over the years of the study. Overlap between the death certificate and death investigation was very low, with only 0.21% of suicides identified as related to work by both sources. Identification of work-relatedness varied by source for demographic characteristics, mechanism of suicide, and occupation. For example, the death certificate identified 2.1% of suicides among those working in protective services as work-related, but death investigations identified 15.2% as having a job problem.

Work-related factors may be associated with a far higher proportion of suicides than previously documented.

A rapid scoping review of COVID-19 and vulnerable workers: Intersecting occupational and public health issues

Source: Daniel Côté, Steve Durant, Ellen MacEachen, Shannon Majowicz, Samantha Meyer, Ai-Thuy Huynh MSc, Marie Laberge, Jessica Dubé, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 7, July 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reports the results of a rapid scoping review of the literature on COVID-19 transmission risk to workers in essential sectors such as retail, health care, manufacturing, and agriculture, and more particularly the experiences of workers in precarious employment and social situations.

Following scoping review methods, we included 30 studies that varied in terms of methodology and theoretical approaches. The search included peer-reviewed articles and grey literature published between March and September 2020.

Based on the studies reviewed, we found that COVID-19 infection and death rates increased not only with age and comorbidities, but also with discrimination and structural inequities based on racism and sexism. Racial and ethnic minority workers, including migrant workers, are concentrated in high-risk occupations and this concentration is correlated to lower socioeconomic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic appears in the occupational health and safety spotlight as an exacerbator of already existing socioeconomic inequalities and social inequalities in health, especially in light of the intersection of issues related to racism, ethnic minority status, and sexism.

This review provides early evidence about the limitations of institutions’ responses to the pandemic, and their capacity to provide a safe and decent working environment for all workers, regardless of their employment status or the social protections they may enjoy under normal circumstances. It is also important to think about these issues in the postpandemic context, when conditions of precariousness and vulnerability persist and possibly worsen.

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past

Source: Smithsonian Institution, 2021

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past offers a space for dialogue about race. It provides a safe and collaborative place where anyone can share experiences and increase their understanding of the legacy of race and racism.

Drawing on the breadth of the Smithsonian’s expertise, research, and collections, our goal is to help advance the work of others. Race and Our Shared Future provides an ecosystem of resources and experiences, both digital and live, featuring real conversations from local communities to national events.

Confronting race and racism is difficult, but necessary work. The Smithsonian strives to amplify your voices in our commitment to building a more equitable path toward our shared future.

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past is built on six thematic pillars. Each is designed to make issues of race and systemic racism understandable, relevant, and, most importantly, changeable.

Attend an Upcoming Event
The Smithsonian is hosting in-person and virtual events designed to help all of us understand, experience, and confront race and racism. We’ll see you there.

Start New Classroom Conversations
From teaching toolkits to low-tech learning activities, the Learning Lab’s resources support classroom teachers’ efforts to amplify critical conversations about the history and legacy of race and racism in the United States and beyond with their students.

The EEOC Confirms Employers Can Mandate a Vaccine, But Should They?

Source: Barbara E. Hoey and Alison Frimmel, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 47 no. 1, July 2021
(subscription required)

This article reviews the highlights of the guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after COVID-19 vaccines were approved and offers practical advice for employers considering rolling out a mandatory vaccination program for their employees.

Research: How Companies Committed to Diverse Hiring Still Fail

Source: Judd Kessler and Corinne Low, Harvard Business Review, February 11, 2021
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Even if your company is committed to diversity inclusion, you might have hidden biases in your hiring strategies. According to recent research on the hiring practices at several prestigious firms, this can take several forms. For example, you might view unpaid internships more favorably than other types of summer jobs, which introduces socioeconomic bias. And you might think that minority and female candidates are less likely to accept a job if offered because so many other firms are also interested in hiring them (something, incidentally, the research doesn’t bear out); because of this, you might be less likely to pursue those candidates. So, if you’re truly committed to diversifying your organization, take a hard look at your hiring processes and face up the fact that they might not be as effective in practice as they are in intention.

I Am Not Your N*gger: Using State Legislation to Pursue Hostile Work Environment Claims Involving Racial Epithets

Source: Shawn Grant, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 72, Issue No. 2, Summer 2021
(subscription required)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that plaintiffs alleging racial harassment prove that the harassing conduct was so severe or pervasive as to create an abusive and hostile work environment. However, plaintiffs encounter obstacles to bringing hostile work environment claims, based on the use of racial epithets, such as the n-word. The “severe or pervasive” standard, as the Supreme Court has defined it through the Court’s decisions, and as some courts have interpreted it, creates a high bar to establishing a prima facie case. Frequently cases based on the single or isolated use of the n-word result in dismissal or summary judgment for defendants, depriving plaintiffs of the opportunity to have their cases heard by a jury. In many cases, the court’s concern with whether the use of the “n-word” is sufficiently “pervasive” to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment, has caused the severity of the impact of the word’s one time use on the victim to be overlooked. This has resulted in the current split among the circuit courts.

Dissatisfaction with the federal courts’ interpretation of the severe or pervasive standard and the implications for the increasing number of sexual harassment cases, due in part to the #MeToo movement, has led some states to enact legislation, or amend current laws, eliminating or narrowing the application of that standard. Victims of hostile work environment based on race, particularly those who are basing their claims on incidents involving the single use of the n-word, may have a greater chance of success by bringing their claims under the laws of states that have revised their legislation to reduce the interpretive barriers to such claims.