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How to Meet Traveling Workers’ Health and Safety Rights

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Katie Brenneman

People have had to travel for work for decades. Now, however, working on the road is easier, more convenient, and even more exciting than ever.

Thanks to advancements in technology, workers can travel across the globe more frequently and network with people in different countries to improve business relationships and stimulate industry growth.

However, health and safety standards for workers who are expected to travel often are still incredibly important.

Whether you work an office job that requires international travel or you’re a pilot, trucker, or any other professional who has to fly or drive all over, your well-being needs to be prioritized. 

The best way to do that is by understanding your rights and feeling empowered to seek the health and wellness care your job should be providing. Let’s cover some of the health issues often associated with travel-based work and why/how those issues should be addressed. 

The Health Risks of Work Travel

Traveling for work can be a great way to see the world, explore new cultures, and meet interesting people. However, it doesn’t come without a few potential health and safety issues. 

First, working long hours away from home can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Some of the biggest issues travel workers often face include sleep deprivation, social isolation, and even malnutrition caused by everything from changing time zones to feeling anxious or depressed. 

Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s also important to consider any potential security threats. Ideally, your company wouldn’t send you anywhere that’s inherently unsafe. But, if you’re unsure of the culture, language, or customs, you could be putting yourself at risk of traveling to dangerous neighborhoods or connecting with people you shouldn’t. 

There are also mental health risks that come with traveling for work. Again, being away from friends and family can lead to feelings of social isolation, which can contribute to serious issues like: 

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Greater mortality rate;
  • Heart conditions.

Traveling a lot can also cause extra stress and lead to burnout. Not only will that affect your work productivity, but it can cause fatigue, sleep issues, and much more. Those issues are likely to linger long after you get home from your trip. 

How Can You Advocate for Your Health and Safety? 

Understanding some of the common concerns associated with traveling for work can help to boost your confidence when it comes to addressing your employer. It’s the legal and ethical responsibility of every business to have a plan for every employee they send out on a work trip. This is called duty of care, and it should cover things like: 

  • Health and safety;
  • Adequate nutrition;
  • Discrimination;
  • Stress;
  • Fire safety.

Duty of care also needs to cover any issues that might arise while an employee is traveling. If you get sick on the road, what will your company do about it? If you get injured in an accident, how will they take care of you?

These are important issues to address before you travel, so don’t be afraid to talk to your employer to ensure they have a safety plan in place. Discussing workplace health concerns might feel a bit intimidating, at first, but you have the right to feel safe and valued if you’re traveling for business.

You also have legal rights when it comes to your health. It is legally required for your employer to keep you away from known health and safety hazards. They also can’t discriminate against you if you bring up any concerns. Consider working with your local OSHA office to determine exactly what those rights are so you can be better prepared as you address your employer. 

In a perfect world, traveling for work would come without any risks. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, no matter how exciting it is.

Know your rights and your value, don’t be afraid to speak up, and take personal precautions when it comes to traveling, and you’re more likely to stay safe and healthy wherever you go. 

This blog was originally contributed to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.

About the Author: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and education When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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Are Shorter Work Hours Good for Remote Team Productivity?

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Kyle McDermott

As remote work continues to rise, the issue of whether shorter hours can facilitate remote team productivity has become subject to discussion.

On the one hand, a flexible schedule could contribute to productivity, help avoid burnout and increase employee satisfaction. On the other, it may cause minimized collaboration and communication among team members, which can impact productivity negatively.

Employers should carefully experiment with different approaches to identify what is best for their teams.

Time is money in the truest sense. Only in 2021, the debate about working less reached unprecedented heights since approximately 46 million American employees quit their jobs so far.

Nowadays, as time is considered more precious, employees consistently raise questions about the necessary working hours to boost productivity levels yet avoid burning out. With COVID-19, we all experienced substantial changes in work-life balance.

Moreover, the pandemic provoked numerous studies of remote efficiency.

For instance, a lasting survey by Great Place to Work of over 800,000 people demonstrated that distance work during the lockdown increased employee productivity from 5% to 7% on average.

So, where is the truth? Are remote workers more efficient with shorter work hours, or is 40 hours a week a standard to comply with? Let’s take a closer look!

Longer Hours Means Higher Productivity

In the modern workforce landscape, most businesses don’t glorify workaholics since longer hours are unsustainable for business.

Overtime rarely stands for increased productivity. The more time you work on a specific task, the more you will miss deadlines and overthink. Only streamlining the business operations could boost remote team productivity and make it more manageable.

Despite the work ethic, more hours per week only sometimes leads to better results. If the team logs many sick leaves in a row, it could be due to long hours.

As a result, long workdays may lead to an unsatisfied and unproductive team.

Work Less, Do More

According to some information, shorter hours can significantly eliminate burnout and increase employee well-being and overall productivity. There are already thousands of companies that have adopted the shortened workweek approach.

The most significant benefit is the three-day weekend that can enhance full-time team members’ morale and help them find a better work-life balance.

For example, most employers reduce the work hours to 32 hours over four days. Microsoft’s Japanese team managed to raise remote team productivity by 40% by adopting a four-day workweek in 2019.

By integrating a shorter work hours model, the companies can:

  • decrease employees’ stress and burnout;
  • reach a better work-life balance; and
  • remain stable in productivity

Do Remote Employees Work Full Shifts?

As a rule, office workers are highly likely to come to work late and leave earlier than remote workers for various reasons.

For example, people get stuck in traffic; their car gets broken down, they have to go home earlier because of some personal issues, etc. According to Bloom’s study, the remote staff is not only working a complete shift, but they also prefer shorter breaks, take fewer sick leaves, and ask for less time off. Fortunately, working more does not mean you’re more efficient.

What do you think?

Remote Team Productivity: Fiction or Reality?

Forbes highlights that many employers strongly believe the efficient employee is an office employee, which is proximity bias.

Unfortunately, many managers still have an unfair preference for employees who come to the office compared to professionals working remotely. Face-to-face engagement between managers and employees results in more positive impressions due to cognitive biases.

This mental game clarifies our commitment to everything we see more often, whether people or things.

Succeeding in remote operations will require retraining most of the managers in assessing performance and addressing proximity favoritism. Companies should focus on trusting the data over their own reactions.

Also, employers should learn a new approach to production evaluations when working remotely. It makes sense to integrate the SMART assessment model, which clarifies specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals for each week.

Are There Other Ways To Increase Productivity?

Fewer Meetings

Top leading companies eliminate the time devoted to meetings by changing periods from 30 to 15 minutes, as well as experimenting with no-meeting days. Yet, Twitter and Gitlab restrain from engagements and prefer to communicate via messaging tools.

Remote Work Is A New Normality

As the new reality impacts business, employees are more interested in transparency, freedom, and flexibility than ever.

People choose to work when they feel more productive rather than sitting in the office for 8 hours and feeling sleepy most of the day. As several studies state, remote team members work efficiently over 40 hours a week, which is 43% more than a regular office employee.

Work-Life Balance Culture

In order to maintain productivity, it is essential to focus on work-life balance first.

A motivated team working without stress functions better. If remote is not an option for your business, consider flexible work hours.

As a team leader, let your employees choose the most optimal work hours individually as well as avoid negative impacts on their productivity.

This blog was originally contributed to Workplace Fairness.

About the Author: Kyle McDermott is a web developer, blogger, blockchain enthusiast, and business analyst. He loves to write about new technologies, business news, and sports events. Kyle is also a proofreader at Computools.

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How to Avoid No-Strike Contract Clauses

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One thing you can be sure of when bargaining your first contract: management will demand a contract clause barring strikes while the agreement is in effect.

No-strike clauses took hold in the 1940s. During World War II, the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and defense industry executives issued no-strike/no-lockout pledges to guarantee production. When the war ended, many union leaders, apparently seduced by the experience of “labor peace,” agreed to similar pledges in their collective bargaining agreements.

Today, an overwhelming percentage of U.S. labor contracts, 94 percent according to a survey by the Bureau of National Affairs, contain no-strike clauses.


A typical no-strike clause reads: The union hereby agrees that no employee shall engage in, induce, or encourage any strike or work stoppage. The union also agrees that neither it nor any of its officers or agents will call, initiate, authorize, or participate in any such strike, work stoppage, slowdown, sickout, or other withholding of services.

Once a no-strike clause is ensconced in the contract, it is almost impossible to remove it. For years to come, employers will be free to fire workers who have the temerity to stop work to protest abusive employer conduct or blatant violations of the labor agreement.

Moreover, courts may order the union to pay the employer for lost income or property. To top it off, the employer may be permitted to rescind the entire labor agreement.

Note: It is not widely known, but provisions in U.S. labor law allow workers to violate no-strike provisions in order to protest “abnormally dangerous” working conditions or serious unfair labor practices that “substantially undermine” the integrity of the contract (see Section 502 of the National Labor Relations Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Arlan’s Department Store decision).

Nonetheless, few arbitrators or courts have had the courage to enforce such laws to overturn discharges or dismiss employer lawsuits.


Initially, a union may want to assert that a no-strike provision is so anti-union, so deep a concession, or so dangerous to members and officers that it will not even consider allowing such language in the contract.

Other Countries

French law says the right to strike is a constitutional privilege that cannot be waived in a collective bargaining agreement.

Canada, on the other hand, says strikes are only lawful before a labor contract takes effect or after it expires — in essence creating mandatory no-strike clauses.

Many U.S. states prohibit government employees from striking at any time. Nonetheless, public authorities invariably demand that public sector contracts include no-strike clauses.

Under the NLRA, however, a no-strike clause is a “mandatory” subject of bargaining. This means the union must discuss the matter in good faith with the employer and explain its objections.

Nothing in the NLRA, however, requires a union to agree to a no-strike clause. Moreover, because a no-strike clause is a mandatory subject of bargaining, the union may strike to keep it out of the contract.

If the union cannot keep a no-strike clause out of the contract, there are several ways to make it less damaging. As a first matter, the union should demand that the language be clearly restricted to the contract term. The union must be able to strike when the contract expires.

Second, the union should argue that the ban on strikes be limited “to matters that are subject to the union grievance procedure.” If a dispute does not fall within the definition of a grievance or, for other reasons, cannot be taken to binding arbitration, why should the union disarm itself by agreeing not to strike?

Third, the union should demand that strikes be permitted in certain circumstances. One is when all of the pre-arbitration steps in the union grievance procedure have been exhausted (like in the GE contracts mentioned below.) Another should permit strikes against serious unfair labor practices or unusually dangerous working conditions.

Another should permit the union to respect bona fide picket lines set up by other unions (i.e., sympathy strikes). For example, the Teamsters national UPS agreement protects drivers’ right to refuse to cross primary picket lines.

Fourth, the union should demand the removal of any language barring it from taking part in other pressure tactics during the contract term: for example, peaceful demonstrations, rallies, bannering, and boycotts.

Fifth, the union should demand language that protects itself if workers engage in spontaneous work stoppages without direction or leadership by the union. Example: “The Union shall not be liable for damages resulting from unauthorized actions of its members.”


Some unions have bargained deep concessions from employers on strike rights. The IUE-CWA contract with General Electric has long allowed the union to strike mid-contract if a matter cannot be resolved in the grievance procedure.

The Teamsters Central Region UPS Supplemental Agreement allows the union to strike over grievances that are not resolved at the last step of the grievance process, which involves the company president of labor relations and the union national package director.

The Teamsters National Master Freight Agreement allows the union to strike if the employer fails to carry out a final decision of a grievance committee or reneges on a settlement.

The Longshore (ILWU) contract with the Pacific Maritime Association allows the union to refuse work: (1) in case of a good faith fear of a health or safety risk; (2) in the event of an “onerous” workload; or (3) to avoid crossing a bona fide picket line.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on February 27, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Robert Schwartz is a labor attorney and the author of “No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts.”

Learn more about unions here.

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Braving the Digital Shift: How to Upskill Your Team

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James Ritter

The modern world of work has been reshaped significantly by the upsurge in remote setups. Since the pandemic, more workers across the world have replaced traditional working arrangements with fully remote or hybrid approaches.

Working in this way, from home or another remote location, offers lots of benefits to both the employee and their employer. 

But working away from the office and having team members dotted around the country and even beyond borders does present some challenges — not least when it comes to upskilling and professional development.

Traditional methods of development saw workers coming together to learn in a collaborative environment, whilst impromptu conversations in the office presented opportunities for constant upskilling. But with more companies now having teams based remotely, improving the skill set of the workforce suddenly becomes more challenging — but not impossible. 

While employees have to take responsibility for their own progression, it’s also up to business owners to identify opportunities and encourage upskilling.

According to this guide produced by software company Adaptavist, more than a third of workers admitted to never having searched for training opportunities themselves, highlighting a clear need for companies to intervene. Of course, efforts from employers to upskill their staff will be repaid by the employees who will be better equipped to carry out their duties, ultimately reducing any skill gaps and increasing productivity. 

This guide to upskilling and reskilling remote teams delves into some of the ways you can do that, as well as providing some top tips to overcome common challenges of remote upskilling. For more information on how you can kickstart your professional development journey, read the full guide here.

This blog was originally contributed to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.

About the Author: James Ritter is a freelance writer who holds a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. He has a degree in creative writing and is always eager to expand his knowledge around different subjects.

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How Will Quiet Hiring Impact the Workforce in 2023?

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Quiet hiring is a newer term used to describe a very commonplace practice in the corporate world. When a company chooses to lay off employees or decides not to hire extra people for a specific task or role, the workload is distributed to employees already in-house. This ideally, can bring about a round of promotions, or, in many cases increase responsibilities and workload for current employees without any change in their title or pay. 

Due to the recent uptick in layoffs making headlines across tech companies and beyond, this trend of quiet hiring will only become the norm. This is just one of the many trends affecting the workplace in 2023.

As companies with record growth and profits are still looking to meet their goals despite a self-inflicted decrease in manpower, the question comes up for many: Why would a company choose to hire from within in this way instead of hiring new employees or keeping on those who already work in needed positions? 

Benefits of Quiet Hiring for Employers

This decision, as with many that companies are making right now, usually brings a benefit to their bottom line. Whether they hired too many individuals, or their lofty goals didn’t go to plan after the demand of COVID died down, the decision of cutting back or preventing a future cost remains the same. 

With so much turnover in the last few years thanks to another buzzword – The Great Resignation – companies have experienced the hefty cost of filling new positions. Last year (2022) the United States saw an average of 42 days and between $2792 and $4425 to hire externally to keep headcounts where they wanted them. Choosing to hire from within and bring in people who already know the company and its practices is a no-brainer in this case. There are no costs in hiring a recruiter, or posting the job vacancy online, as well as paying benefits for another person. 

Quiet hiring also saves time. The gap between losing an employee due to layoffs or resignation and the next employee’s first day is completely eliminated or significantly reduced.

The lag time on projects ultimately costs money, and bringing in an existing employee on projects saves from having to train new hires and getting them up to speed on not only the business as well as their respective projects. This is especially attractive to companies that track profitability in terms of hours and minutes as well as dollars and cents. 

Benefits of Quiet Hiring for Employees

While employers see the benefits of discrete in-house hiring, employees can see benefits as well, if everything is executed properly. 

Not only can an employee’s job title see a meaningful boost when taking on new responsibilities, but their paycheck can see some improvement as well! This means employees will be more likely to stay at a company where they know their additional efforts are seen and rewarded, and their personal lives can benefit as well. 

Many people are struggling with meeting everyday costs due to inflation in recent months, as well as the expected challenges as they move through different phases of their lives. Marriage, children, moving and schooling, all add up and are often represented by a diverse workforce in any company. Many worry about their financial health and how their current standing may impact their ability to purchase a house or a vehicle in the coming months due to unexpected circumstances, or even careful budgeting. 

Quiet hiring can boost morale for employees as well, as they see so many of their friends and family losing their jobs to mass layoffs. When their loyalty is rewarded with commensurate salaries and job titles, their minds can be put at ease to an extent many employers underestimate.

Workplace trauma can include unpredictable or toxic work environments or an ongoing state of uncertainty over one’s job security. By making it known that their position is secure and following through with that promise, employers can significantly improve an employee’s mental health. 

Challenges of Quiet Hiring

Unfortunately, the benefits of quiet hiring remain to be seen for many employees who are getting swamped with their workload without compensation negotiations or career growth opportunities. While quiet hiring helps employers meet their bottom line for the time being, it will only prompt employees to look elsewhere for companies that will see their value as more than a number and as a person who deserves recognition and may desperately need the money that comes with appropriate compensation in a difficult job market. 

This lack of communication and transparency between employer and employee quickly erodes trust. Even if a raise eventually comes, but does not meet the market expectations of that role, or their job title remains the same, the turnover that was so carefully avoided is now inevitable.

This type of treatment of one’s employees also builds a reputation that many employees are more likely to speak out about on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, among other platforms. 

In conclusion, the trend of quiet hiring has both benefits and challenges. It is a great way to open up new opportunities, particularly for those who are not actively searching, and to remove traditional, structural biases.

But it can be extremely difficult for those who see little to no personal or career improvement when employers use it as a quick way of saving money instead of making significant investments in their growth.

Quiet hiring has the power to impact the workforce in both a negative and positive way, making it something to carefully consider going forward. 

This blog was originally contributed to Workplace Fairness on March 8, 2023. Published with permission.

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Rail Workers of the World, Unite!

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Maximillian Alvrez

From unions in the United States fighting to save our supply chain from the destruction wrought by corporate tycoons, Wall Street vampires, and bought-off politicians, to the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) leading the fight against austerity politics and ruling-class union busting in the United Kingdom, to rail workers with the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) in France joining their compatriots in the streets in a general strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal attack on the country’s beloved pension system, rail workers around the world are fighting different battles in the same war: the class war. 

In this special international episode, we bring together a panel of rail workers from the US, UK, and France to talk about what they are up against, what the struggle looks like in their corners of the world, and what we can all do to connect those struggles and build international worker solidarity. 

Panelists include: Ross Grooters of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Railroad Workers United in the US; Cat Cray and Clayton Clive of the RMT in the UK; Matthieu Bolle-Reddat of the CGT Cheminots Versailles in France.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 3, 2023 alongside a podcast recording and transcript.

About the Author: Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at In These Times. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.

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Unions Secure Future Jobs by Pushing Investments

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Last year, Mark Glyptis and dozens of other union leaders went into contract negotiations with the Cleveland-Cliffs mining company. They were determined not only to win wage and benefit enhancements for their coworkers, but also to protect thousands of family-sustaining steel mill jobs for years to come.

The United Steelworkers (USW) negotiating team ultimately delivered a historic contract requiring the company to invest $4 billion in 13 union-represented facilities. This includes about $100 million at the Weirton, West Virginia mill where Glyptis and his colleagues rely on ever more sophisticated equipment to make precision tin plate.

Protecting Workers’ Sweat Equity

Unions fight for financial commitments like these to safeguard workers’ sweat equity.

The time and labor they invest in their workplaces for decades at a stretch. Capital upgrades keep employers accountable and plants viable, preserving family-sustaining jobs while also laying the groundwork for future growth.

“Steel mills are being built across the world, and we’re definitely competing on a worldwide basis,” observed Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911, noting the overseas facilities feature the “most modern technology.”

“We’re the best steelworkers in the world. We can compete. But we have to keep up with capital investments,” continued Glyptis, who helped to represent about 12,000 USW members from six states in the talks with Cleveland-Cliffs in 2022.

Glyptis and other Local 2911 members fought for new equipment that they need to produce “perfectly flat and flawless “tin plate for food containers.

Based on members’ input, other local unions — supplying the military, highway contractors, aerospace, and numerous other industries — went into negotiations with their own requirements for upgrades.

Members overwhelmingly ratified a new, four-year contract last fall. The vote reflected their satisfaction with the $4 billion in investments — to be allocated among the 13 worksites — as much as it did the 20% raises and benefit enhancements the agreement provides.

“You can have the best health care in the country or in the world, but if you can’t compete because of technological deficiencies, you’re going to be an also-ran,” Glyptis pointed out. “Maintaining a competitive facility is just as important.”

“It all goes into a decision about whether this is a fair contract. It would be difficult to have a contract passed if it didn’t have a commitment to capital investments attached,” he said. He added that the company continues hiring many younger workers who see the upgrades as crucial to raising families and putting down roots.

Infrastructure Investments

Unions also negotiate capital investments to protect workers from companies that might otherwise abandon plants on a whim or run them to failure while wringing out every last penny in profit.

“They don’t have to live with the long-term impact of what they do. We do. Union workers do,” declared Andrew Worby, president of USW Local 2-209. He was referring to “profit-taker” CEOs who line their pockets on workers’ backs before moving on to their next jobs.

Once a company commits resources to a location, it’s more likely to stick around, said Worby. He recalled that he and his coworkers at the Harley-Davidson plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin upped their demands for capital investments after a cavalier executive threatened to move the facility during a contract dispute.

Most recently, a contract requires Harley-Davidson to invest $65 million in the Menomonee Falls powertrain manufacturing site over five years. The company also has to invest another $10 million at a Tomahawk, Wisconsin, plant where workers are represented by USW Local 460.

The impact is already evident. Workers in Wisconsin are “tooling up and readying to produce” the powertrains for a new line of electric motorcycles, the company announced.

“There’s a much bigger and broader picture to the impact of a union contract,” said Worby. “It doesn’t just affect the union members. It affects the families. It affects the community. It affects the state we’re in.”

The security provided by union-won investments means that “a new worker, instead of renting, is willing to buy a house,” he explained. “Now he’s paying property taxes. He’s going to send his kids to the school district. He’s going to buy a refrigerator from the local appliance guy. It’s huge.”

Preserving Jobs, Protecting Communities

When companies do threaten to close worksites, unions step up to preserve jobs and protect communities.

The USW, for example, intervened when Domtar announced plans to close a Kingsport, Tennessee paper mill where union members made uncoated free sheet. Some workers, including USW Local 12943 President Keith Kiker, worked there for decades.

Union leaders knew Domtar wanted to enter the recycled containerboard market, so they successfully pushed the company to overhaul and reopen the Kingsport facility for that new product line.

The union’s advocacy resulted in a $350 million investment, saving about 150 jobs and ensuring a competitive facility for decades to come. Workers produced their first roll of recycled containerboard in January 2023.

“Everybody who wanted to come back got to come back,” said Kiker, noting company officials “knew what they had” in a skilled and dedicated workforce committed to ensuring a successful mill conversion.

“This has been a good place to work. It’s still the best insurance in the region,” he added, noting other companies in the Kingsport area must match USW-negotiated health benefits to retain their own workers.

Worby and his coworkers at Harley-Davidson see “a lot of new equipment coming in” right now, giving them the sense of security that they sought in the last round of contract talks. But they realize that the fight for facility investments, like the battle for fair wages and benefits, never ends.

“You want to keep the positive energy flowing,” Worby said.. “Longevity is very important to us.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on February 28, 2023.

About the Author: Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).

Visit Workplace Fairness’ page here to learn more about unions.

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Workplace Retaliation: What to Know and Examples

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Alana Redmond

What is workplace retaliation? According to the Department of Labor, workplace retaliation is “when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, administrator or directly) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.”

Retaliation can seriously impact an employee’s life and livelihood. It may also be used by employers as a way to discourage others from taking similar action, although this is illegal.

Protected activities that employees may engage in include:

  • Reporting discrimination or harassment
  • Complying with a harassment investigation
  • Refusing to comply with orders that would result in discriminatory action
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability or religious practice
  • Filing a complaint
  • Inquiring about pay or hours
  • Reporting harassment
  • Asserting workers rights
  • Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect someone else from sexual advances

Workplace retaliation is a serious issue that if left unchecked can foster a toxic work environment and lead to legal consequences.

Workplace retaliation can take many forms, here are some examples.

Demotion or Termination

Demotion and termination are some of the most severe forms of retaliation. If an employee engages in a protected activity and is demoted or terminated as a result, it would be considered retaliation. 

Reduced Hours or Pay

Reducing hours or pay is a more subtle form of retaliation, but still can have a considerable impact on the employee’s livelihood. 

Opportunity Exclusion

Excluding an employee from an opportunity in response to them engaging in a protected activity is retaliation. Opportunities can include training, meetings, promotions, and more. 

Creating a Hostile Work Environment

Another form of retaliation is when a hostile work environment is created. This can be through the form of intimidation, threats, or harassment by coworkers or employers. 

Disciplinary Actions

When an employer disciplines an employee for engaging in protected activities, this is workplace retaliation. Disciplinary action can include verbal reprimands, suspension, or unwarranted write-ups. 

Workplace retaliation is an issue that should not be taken lightly. The ramifications can have severe consequences on both employers and employees. Employers must take preventative measures to educate employees on retaliation. They can do this by providing training on anti-retaliation policies and procedures, and making sure that they foster an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to report illegal conduct without fear of retaliation. 

If you are an employee who believes they have experienced retaliation, you should consult with an attorney right away to understand your rights and learn about potential legal courses of action. Be sure to find a lawyer that is experienced in employment law for the best chance at a successful claim. 

It is important to note that retaliation claims can be difficult for employees to prove. Employees will need to provide ample evidence that their employer’s actions were in direct response to their engaging in a protected activity. While it can be challenging to prove, it is not impossible. Especially with the help of an experienced employment law attorney. 

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness.

About the Author: Alana Redmond is a worker’s rights advocate and consumer safety writer who works with The Janda Law Firm, an injury law firm dedicated to enacting workplace fairness across the country

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History of Workplace Safety for Black Americans

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Historically, Black Americans have faced significant discrimination and have been refused equity in our society, including in workplace safety and health. At the same time, they’ve also been at the forefront of fighting for stronger workplace protections for all Americans.

From the Atlanta Washerwomen to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to the Black miners who all took a stand against abusive labor practices — and countless others — we honor their leadership and sacrifices during Black History Month as we continue to fulfill our mission to improve workplace safety and health. 

It was 55 years ago this month, in Memphis, Tennessee, when two Black sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, died after being crushed when the truck they were working on malfunctioned. When the city failed to respond to this tragedy more than a week later, 1,300 Black workers from the city’s public works department went on strike to demand better wages and safer working conditions.

In support of the workers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the strike and played a key role in leading nonviolent protests to help the workers and the city come to an agreement for better wages and better work protections. In fact, he was in Memphis to support the workers when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The event became part of the larger civil rights movement. 

Fast forward to today: While we’ve made great strides in workplace safety, too many workers are still subjected to conditions as dangerous as what Cole and Walker faced.

In 2021, more than 14 workers were killed on the job every day. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the share of fatalities among Black workers reached an all-time high at 12.6% in 2021, increasing to 653 from 541 in 2020, with most in the transportation industry or related to workplace violence.

The disparity is especially clear in the fatality rates for major demographics: Black or African American workers had a fatality rate of 4.0 per 100,000 full-time workers, compared with an average of 3.6 for all workers. 

The rise in fatal injuries and illnesses links to racial disparities and social issues Black Americans face, such as limited education opportunities, lower earnings and more exposure to hazardous jobs than white Americans. They are also more likely to fear retaliation for speaking up about health and safety concerns at work. 

Last September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administrated hosted our first Workers’ Voice Summit in Washington, D.C. We heard from workers across the country about cases of job steering, where employers assign workers of color to the most dangerous, dirtiest and most unpleasant jobs.

No worker should ever be at any disadvantage because of the color of their skin.

That is why OSHA is taking steps to expand our effort to those disproportionately impacted by injuries and illnesses while on the job — including Black workers — in high-hazard industries like construction, health care and warehousing.   

We are collaborating with stakeholders, Black-led union groups and worker centers to better understand how we can make resources more accessible, and equip workers with proper tools, knowledge and training to ensure equitable enforcement.

With the right resources and support, workers can raise their voices with confidence and trust OSHA will listen and support their needs. 

As we celebrate Black History Month, we know we must do more to create equity and safety for all workers.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during the Memphis sanitation strike, “whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.”

If each employer implemented that level of humanity in their business today, we could see more equity for everyone and safer workplaces. 

This blog originally appeared on the website for the U.S. Department of Labor on February 17, 2023.

About the Author: Doug Parker is the assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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Work Isn’t Really Valued in the U.S.

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Laura Clawson

A journalism professor’s recent tweet highlighted the shockingly low salaries in the local television news industry — by issuing a challenge to local TV stations to pay better than a local fast food restaurant.

The tweet from Elliott Lewis, a professor in the journalism school at Syracuse University, showed a Help Wanted sign at a nearby Five Guys touting an average hourly wage of $17.85. In the responses to the tweet, dozens of people cited the low pay they’ve gotten in television and radio news.

But it’s not just the media doing badly. It’s a chance to consider just how many jobs require expensive college degrees or directly affect vulnerable people’s health or education.

As the replies to this make clear, it is not an idle challenge to offer up. In addition to low pay, people who’ve worked in local news cited long hours and being told not to get second jobs to make ends meet.

To be clear, fast food workers should also be paid $17.85 per hour or above. It’s hard work, and people are too often stuck on part-time hours, and people whose job includes preventing foodborne illnesses should get the respect that role deserves.

That said, it’s also the case that fast food is often in this country seen as a rock-bottom kind of job, so when other jobs can’t match it, it’s a broader commentary on how work is valued in this country.

Not far away, in Oneida County, 911 dispatchers were being offered a starting salary of $36,524. Granted, those jobs are promising benefits that Five Guys probably doesn’t offer. Nonetheless, they’re 911 dispatchers. They’re dealing with your health emergencies, your fires, your home break-ins. 

In 2020-2021, there were 23 states where the average starting salary for a teacher was below $40,000. In one Massachusetts city and town after another, teachers unions are fighting for their paraprofessionals — dedicated classroom workers who support teachers and help students — to be paid an hourly wage just a hair higher than that Five Guys ad.

In one city, an expired contract still in effect put paraprofessionals below the state minimum wage (though the district did say it would honor the minimum wage, yay). The median hourly pay for child care workers is $13.22.

Medical assistants in hospitals and doctors offices, helping your care run smoothly, make just about $37,000 a year on average. Nationally, home health aides are lucky if they make $30,000 a year helping their patients live comfortable lives by bathing and toileting and dressing them, taking care of household tasks, and more.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and the fight for a $15 minimum wage have shaped our thinking on what low pay looks like.

In addition, just as older people often downplay the seriousness of the student loan crisis by talking about how they worked their way through college without realizing how much higher tuitions are now than 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, older people may judge pay scales by what they made early in their careers.

But inflation isn’t just a phenomenon of the past year — $10 in 1985 is more than $27 now. 

Wage inequality keeps rising, the Economic Policy Institute reports: “In 2021, annual wages rose fastest for the top 1% of earners (up 9.4%) and top 0.1% (up 18.5%), while those in the bottom 90% saw their real earnings fall 0.2% between 2020 and 2021. Workers in the 90th–99th percentile of the earnings distribution also experienced real losses in 2021.” From 1979 to 2021, wages for the top 1% rose by 206.3%, while wages for the bottom 90% rose by 28.7%.

The reality is that $17.85 an hour isn’t a living wage for even a single person in many states, let alone a parent.

In 20 states and the District of Columbia, the living wage for a single person is over $17, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. In no state is the living wage below $15 an hour. And looking at the many, many jobs that just barely pay a living wage emphasizes how messed up the working people’s economy is. 

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on February 2, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the assistant managing editor at Daily Kos.

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