From organizing on the ground to medical advocacy, advocates from vastly different perspectives call for safer and healthier workplaces. Ergonomist Dr. Jonathan Dropkin of North Shore LIJ is concerned that the need for ergonomically safe workplaces has taken a back step to other concerns since 9/11. Next, Nazma Akter an organizer from Bangladesh reveals how the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster has spurred workers to step-up mobilizing for basic worker rights and workplace safety. Finally, younger IBEW local 3 members discuss how best to engage and educate a new generation in the labor movement.
Prescriptions for a Safe Workplace
Performing repetitive work tasks incorrectly at work over a prolonged period could, in time, cause serious occupational injury to a worker. Ergonomics is the science designed to prevent repetitive stress injuries and other such workplace related ailments. Dr. Jonathan Dropkin, from North Shore LIJ’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Practice, is one of the very few accredited Ergonomists in the State of New York. We learn why he became an Ergonomist and how he has been involved in successful efforts to prevent injuries in a wide range of fields such as the newsroom, where many workers were subject to hazards from the old CRT screens and poorly designed work stations, never meant for sitting at a computer and typing for hours on end. Ergonomic analysis of a workplace can save an employer a great deal of money in terms of worker productivity and lowering injury rates and claims. However, Dr. Dropkin laments that in his many years of working as an Ergonomist, perhaps only 5% of ergonomic consultations in which he has been involved had been initiated by employers. More often ergonomists are called in when a union or employee recognizes a potentially hazardous work environment and demands something be done to correct it.
Ergonomists can prevent a range of injuries to increase productivity, yet only 5% of consultations are initiated by employersTweet this
Bangladeshi Workers Seek Safer Workplaces
In April 2013, a large factory building in Bangladesh, Rana Plaza, completely collapsed, despite prior warnings to the owner about dangerous construction deficiencies. 1,129 people died, and scores more were seriously injured, all because the factory operator apparently saw no financial incentive to ensure that the building was soundly built and safe for workers. Rana Plaza will go down in history as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire for Bangladesh. Since then workers on the ground have mobilized en mass to demand that factories respect workers’ safety. Nazma Akter, is an organizer in Bangladesh who has worked in the garment industry since she was a child and she spoke at the Workers Institute in Cornell ILR. She tells us the struggle to get a minimum wage in Bangladesh, albeit one that is barely above the global poverty line. Even with this accomplishment there is still much to do. Akter implores Americans to help by demanding that companies who sell clothes in the United States agree to legally binding international standards of worker rights.
80% of companies have signed on to legal agreement for better worker rights. Need to get other 20% signed on Tweet this
Developing Young Leaders in the Labor Movement
Union density hit an all-time low several years ago, however it appears to be rebounding. Since the days of Harry Van Arsdale, IBEW local 3, one of New York’s largest unions, has recognized the value of educating its workers not only in the skills of the electrical trades but also in such areas as labor history, civics, communication and political science and other liberal arts. Younger members of IBEW 3, recently arranged a youth conference to help advance the goal of cultivating young labor leaders. We spoke with four key younger figures from IBEW local 3: Chris Erikson, Jr., Chair of the Youth Committee (and great grandson of Harry Van Arsdale); Wendel Yee, Vice-chair of the Youth Committee; Jonathan Berenson Chair of the 2014 Youth Conference, and Lenny Capicotto, Secretary of the Youth Committee. They described the recent conference and discussed developing the necessary skills for aspiring young labor leaders.
Young workers need to be empowered with skills necessary to strengthen the labor movement Tweet this
1) Promoting Labor Day Solidarity: We talk about the importance of solidarity in the labor movement, both within the legislature and in the workplace
2) Healthcare Update – Labor Rights are Civil Rights – Union Womens’ Summer School: Find out about the growing labor movement in the realm of civil rights and how the two actually work together
3) Relief for World Trade Center Responders and Survivors: Find out about the ailments that 9/11 World Trade Center face and the types of assistance available to help
You can subscribe to Labor-Lines on I-Tunes / Stitcher or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@LaborLines)
Labor-Lines can be heard Saturday at 1:00 pm in NYC on AM-970 “The Answer” — 6:30 pm in Nassau County on AM -1240 WGBB — Sunday at 7:00 am in Suffolk County on WJVC 96.1 FM “My Country” – and at 8:00 am in Suffolk on WRCN “LI News Radio” 103.9 FM