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Work Injuries*

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Big Win for Worker Rights and Workplace Safety. This Labor Day, the 26 million workers who work for federal contractors really have something to celebrate.

Big Win for Worker Rights and Workplace Safety

President Obama issued the final rule implementing the historic Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces Executive Order which will make sure that federal contractors who repeatedly violate worker safety and labor laws will be held to account. These new federal rules will require companies to disclose violations from the previous few years when bidding for each new major contract. In February 2016, CMD's Mary Bottari and Jessica Mason pulled back the curtain on many of the powerful groups lobbying against the new rules, including the little-known Human Resources Policy Association and the Professional Services Council.

With a series of articles, they exposed the major companies like DuPont, Honewell, BAE Systems and AECOM with terrible track records when it came to worker safety. (You can see our exposé on all the groups here.) OSHA Worker Rights and Protections. Private Sector Workers — OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state plan.

OSHA Worker Rights and Protections

State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program. To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or State Program office nearest you, see the Regional and Area Offices map. State and Local Government Workers — Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in one of the 22 states and territories that have an OSHA-approved state program. 29 Miners Killed. America’s justice system, although allegedly “blind,” is hardly what one would consider just or fair; at least in the sense that all Americans are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

29 Miners Killed

Most Americans are aware that the system works differently for the rich and powerful than it does for the rest of the population. Justice in America is not blind, it sees wealth and power and simply closes its eyes, but focuses intently on Americans who are not rich or well-connected. How else can a man like Cliven Bundy summon armed militias to confront federal officers and be hailed as a hero by Republicans instead of being tried and convicted for sedition the entire nation watched unfold. All the while, a person of color is thrown in prison for having a reefer in their pocket, or legally gunned down by law enforcement officers for walking down the street, or being unfortunate enough to be handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. Big Biz Swindle. Standing before a giant map in his Dallas office, Bill Minick doesn’t seem like anyone’s idea of a bomb thrower.

Big Biz Swindle

But backed by some of the biggest names in corporate America, this mild-mannered son of an evangelist is plotting a revolution in how companies take care of injured workers. His idea: Let them opt out of state workers’ compensation laws — and write their own rules. Minick swept his hand past pushpins marking the headquarters of Walmart, McDonald’s and dozens of his other well-known clients, and hailed his plan as not only cheaper for employers, but better for workers too. “We’re talking about reengineering one of the pillars of social justice that has not seen significant innovation in 100 years,” Minick said. Minick’s quest sounds implausible, but he’s already scored significant victories. Many of the nation’s biggest retail, trucking, health care and food companies have already opted out in Texas, where Minick pioneered the concept as a young lawyer.

The Texas Way Jenkins is 32. Cheap Chicken. Before slicing off your next bite of chicken, nibble on this for a moment: To get that bird to your table, workers make at least 20,000, sometimes up to 100,000, slicing and grabbing motions every day.

Cheap Chicken

To keep up with a “killing line” that runs ever faster to deliver America’s most popular meat to our plates – a breakneck rate of 140 birds a minute – a largely immigrant workforce of roughly 250,000 endures chronic and crippling injuries for poverty wages. To churn out millions of processed chickens – 30 million a day, and a record 89 pounds a year per American consumer – the poultry industry relies on severe yet normalized worker exploitation: chronic pain, lifelong repetitive motion injuries, and humiliation. After hours slicing through thousands of birds, knives grow dull, skid off the cold slippery parts, stabbing workers in the hand or arm. The Oxfam report amplifies a growing movement pressuring the poultry and meat packing industries to both pay and treat their workers better. Safety Delays. Efforts to improve workplace safety during the past two decades have been stymied as a result of intense lobbying by industries, as well as by decisions or inactions by Congress and federal agencies, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI).

Safety Delays

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was once a productive arm of the U.S. government, issuing as many as six new health standards a year. But that was in 1978, and businesses have worked hard to challenge OSHA’s mission ever since. Consequently, there have been only seven chemical exposure-limit regulations issued in the past 20 years. And one of those was rescinded by the U.S. Congress.