OSHA PROPOSES ERGONOMIC STANDARD
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration took a major step in the direction of protecting workers from musculoskeletal disorders when it published the text of a proposed ergonomics standard on Nov. 23. The official unveiling of the proposed regulation starts the clock in a process that could lead to the issuing of a final rule by the end of next year, requiring many businesses to implement ergonomics programs to prevent disabling injuries suffered by about 600,000 workers each year.
While this is an enormous step forward, after a nine-year battle by Big Business and anti-worker lawmakers to block ergonomic rules, it does not go far enough. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has urged that when the rules are finalized next year, after public hearings and a comment period, they be expanded to include the agriculture, construction and maritime industries.
1. Extend Health Care Reform Act. As this issue went to press, negotiations had not yet begun on the Health Care Reform Act (HCRA), which is slated to expire on New Year’s Eve. If the law is allowed to lapse, New York State will have no system for financing Child Health Plus and other important public health programs. The Assembly passed a strong bill, HCRA 2000, in June (see July/August and December Allegros), but neither the governor nor the State Senate has come forward with a plan for HCRA’s future.
Moreover, there are indications that Gov. Pataki may propose cuts in hospital funding, possibly by cutting Medicaid funding. 802 members can help head off cutbacks by contacting Gov. Pataki (518/474-8390), Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (518/455-3191) and your own State Senator to urge passage of HCRA 2000.
2. America Still Needs a Raise. Congress adjourned for the holiday recess without passing an increase in the minimum wage, which would benefit nearly 12 million of the country’s lowest paid workers. The labor movement supports a measure that would raise the minimum wage by $1 – to $6.15 – in two steps. The House version, HR-325, was introduced by David Bonior (D-Mich.), and the Senate version by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
As members of Congress return to their districts, they need to hear the message that working families support HR-325 to raise the minimum wage. The AFL-CIO is urging union members to contact their member of Congress immediately.
RENT BATTLE LOOMS
These are the final months of a battle to protect New York City’s rent control and rent stabilization laws, which will expire on March 31. The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition has been campaigning vigorously to make sure that tenants are not forced to swallow another round of decontrol amendments as the price of renewal. Local 802 members can help in several ways: by participating in NYSTNC’s phone blitzes and mailing parties; by helping to pay for newspaper ads that will appear in many community newspapers throughout the city; and by asking your council member to send you a written promise that she or he will oppose, and vote against, any and all weakening amendments when the rent laws come up for renewal in March. For more info, contact NYSTNC at (212) 695-8922.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Our thanks to the elected officials who spoke out in support of the locked-out New York City Ballet Orchestra musicians: Rep. Jerry Nadler and Assemblymember Ed Sullivan. We would also like to thank City Councilmember Christine Quinn for providing ballet slippers for the rats who attended the rally, and Council speaker Peter Vallone for making the purchase of the slippers possible.