Archive | November, 2012

Casper town hall on public pension system

College site of fourth public pension meeting

System chief Thom Williams tells how to keep the system healthy

Forum in Nichols auditorium starts at 7 p.m.

The Equality State Policy Center and its allies will stage a fourth town hall meeting of 2012 to examine Wyoming’s public pension system and its importance to the state and its communities Wednesday night (Nov. 28) in the Nichols auditorium on the Casper College campus. The event again will be sponsored by the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System. Teachers, fire fighters, nurses and other public servants work hard and rely on the state  system to provide a stable income around which they an build their retirement income plans. The system, meanwhile, pays the bulk of all benefits with earnings on investments of funds contributed by state and local employees and their employers, whether the state, county, city, town or local governments. Even special districts and joint powers boards around Wyoming participate in the system. Attendees will hear Wyoming Retirement System Director Thom Williams explain the system and the changes made by the Legislature during the 2012 session. Stephen Sommers, the chair of the WRS board of directors, will join Williams to answer questions. Other members of the state retirement board are expected to attend. The Wyoming system is healthy but must be managed carefully to assure its health over the long-term.

Town hall meeting agenda

  1. 6:45 – 7 p.m. Attendees arrive and sign in. (We need to be certain to have sign-in sheets for attendees.)
  2. 7 p.m. – Welcome – Ken Decaria
  3. 7:05 p.m. – Sheila McHattie, art teacher at Natrona County High School
  4. 7:20 p.m. – What the system means to teachers, fire fighters and others – Video by Coleen Haines
  5. 7:30 p.m. – Advocating for the system – Dan Neal, ESPC
  6. 7:40  p.m. – Thom Williams, WRS director
  7. 8:15 p.m. – Q&A with Thom Williams and Stephen Sommers
  8. 8:30 p.m. – Meeting adjourns (flexible)
See ESPC news release here.

How to get there

The Nichols Auditorium sits inside the McMurry Career Studies building at the south end of the Casper College campus. Take the most southerly entrance to the campus from Casper Mountain Road, turn left at the access road (a four-way intersection with stop signs for all but west-bound traffic), then continue south curving to the McMurry Career Studies building parking lot on your left. Here’s a Casper College map highlighting the site.
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Gillette Know Your Rights workshop

Attendees listen intently to learn about their rights under state and federal law

Workers want rights information

Urged to speak out on safety and report job injuries

‘Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace.’

Hispanic and Latino workers who attended a “Know Your Rights” workshop in Gillette Monday night displayed keen interest in learning their rights and responsibilities under state and federal labor and job safety laws. Workshop speakers told the workers that they must voice concerns about safety at job sites and report injuries. Attendees were reassured they’re not alone in dealing with job safety and wage issues. State agency representatives noted that they receive thousands of reports of injuries, safety concerns, and labor standards violations each year. The workshop attracted nearly 40 people. Many use Spanish as their primary language and turned to interpreter Cristina Colling to relay their many questions to the workshop speakers.

SAFER attorney Mark Aronowitz

Jackson Attorney Mark Aronowitz of the Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER) presented an overview of relevant state and federal laws with particular attention to Workers’ Compensation, OSHA, and the Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA). He noted that Wyoming’s well-established status as an “at-will” state means employers can terminate a worker’s employment for any reason – or no reason at all. That means that under certain circumstances, injured workers can be discharged; however, he also detailed how accurate, complete reporting of safety violations and injuries can protect workers. Rene Nieto of OSHA, Faye Jorgenson of Workers’ Compensation, and Russ Webb of Labor Standards and Compliance discussed how their agencies carry out the law. All emphasized the need to report injuries, safety violations, or failure to comply with labor standards regarding wages, overtime, and discrimination. There was plenty of interest in the crowd, which listened intently and had many questions. One Hispanic man told of being talked out of reporting a job injury by his employer. He said he was promised better compensation than Workers’ Comp would provide and light duty while he recovered. The light duty lasted only a couple of days and three months later he was discharged. He was able to prove his injury to Workers’ Comp and has received help, but his story highlighted how unscrupulous employers use fear, intimidation, and lies to avoid seeing a job injury go on their record and potentially driving up their Workers’ Compensation premium costs. Like Aronowitz, the agency representatives repeatedly noted the need to meet legal deadlines for reporting injuries to employers (within 72 hours) and making certain to file a report to Workers’ Comp with 10 days. Jorgenson noted the purpose of Workers’ Comp is to ensure that workers receive prompt, adequate medical attention in order to help them restore their health and return to work. “Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace,” Nieto said. Both Nieto and Aronowitz emphasized the need to keep records to verify their reports during the OSHA or MSHA investigation phase.

Sponsors and thanks

The workshop co-sponsors include the Wyoming Association of Churches, the Wyoming State AFL-CIO, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, SAFER and the ESPC. Thanks to ESPC field organizer Cristina Colling for simultaneous interpretation. Special thanks to Chesie Lee of WAC and several WAC members in Gillette who provided logistical assistance, including reserving the Wyoming room of the Campbell County Library, and refreshments.
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Know your rights as a worker

Workers’ rights workshop set in Gillette

ESPC joins four other groups to stage event

Do you know your rights as a Wyoming worker? Some workplace laws may surprise you. The ESPC is joining four other groups in sponsoring a workers’ rights workshop in Gillette tonight (Nov. 19). “Wyoming law does not provide an abundance of rights for workers,” said Mark Aronowitz, an attorney for the Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER). “From a workplace safety perspective, several important protections do exist. They include preventing injuries, ensuring safety practices and knowing your rights immediately following an injury.” A workshop on worker rights will provide Campbell County area workers the opportunity to hear state agency representatives and worker advocates explain the legal rights of employees. Representatives of Wyoming’s Labor Standards, OSHA, and Workers’ Compensation offices will participate in a panel to explain wage and hour laws, when and how to report a job injury, and health and safety standards governing all work places. Aronowitz will provide an advocate’s perspective on what workers need to know about their rights and how they can strive to protect them. “Worker safety is a huge concern in Wyoming,” said Chesie Lee, the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Churches, one of the co-sponsors of the event. “We have heard that some workers hesitate to report problems for fear they might lose their jobs. That is not a good situation.” State agency representatives at the workshop include Faye Jorgenson, Workers’ Comp; Rene Nieto, OSHA; and Russ Webb, Labor Standards. The workshop will be conducted in the Wyoming Room of the Campbell County Public Library, 2101 S. 4J Road in Gillette. It begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 8:30 after a question and answer period. English to Spanish interpretation will be available. “Wyoming people deserve safe work places and must be compensated fairly, including receiving overtime pay,” said Dan Neal, executive director of the ESPC. “This workshop will give everyone a chance to learn about worker rights and responsibilities on the job.” Workshop sponsors are the Wyoming State AFL-CIO, Wyoming Association of Churches, SAFER, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, and the Equality State Policy Center.
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2012 VOTE Recap

Micah Lott, Jenea Mandan, Steven Carpenter and Rauni Spute canvass door-to-door.(WyoFile)

Volunteers make election work a success

Dedicated voter advocates knock more than 3,800 doors

When it comes to voter education and get out the vote work, everyone involved knows there’s a major deadline: Election Day. The ESPC this year made a big effort in three communities on the Wind River Reservation and in Casper, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and Torrington. This is our VOTE work: Voter Organizing, Training and Empowerment. We could not have done it without the dedicated volunteers who gave us their time and energy to convince their neighbors to raise their voices by voting. Our leadership council, RezAction, joined other tribal allies to form RezVote, a major effort to canvass the sprawling reservation prior to the General Election, and then get voters to the polls on Election Day. Volunteers wearing Native Vote tee shirts handed out flyers at many places including at the UW basketball game against Fort Lewis College staged at the Wyoming Indian High School gym in Ethete on Halloween night.

Jacqueline Bowlus canvasses in Rawlins Nov. 3.

Volunteers for our leadership councils in Torrington and Rock Springs (CORAJE and TRIBE) also worked hard to canvass their communities and get neighbors to raise their voices by voting. On the reservation, our volunteers handed out a thousand tee-shirts were handed out to community voters, including volunteer van drivers who knocked on doors offering rides to the polls on election days. The RezVote group found 11 cooks to prepare feasts for voters on Election Day Fort Washakie, Ethete, and Arapahoe. RezVote coordinator Jolene Catron recently talked about the effort on Facebook. “A HUGE thank you to our cooks who worked long, grueling hours to keep voters fed … Making fry bread all day long is one of the hardest jobs I know of.

RezVote Feast cook Rachel Yinastrosa, Fort Washakie. (Lindsay D’Addato/WyoFile)

“This effort would not have been possible without good people in the community stepping up and volunteering their time and expertise. Funding for the big reservation effort came from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho business councils, as well as the ESPC and its member organizations, individual contributors collectively known as the Friends of the ESPC, and Western States Center. Altogether, nearly 50 volunteers helped us canvass in Casper, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and Torrington. They knocked on more than 3,800 doors. On Wind River, dozens of volunteers distributed nearly 2,000 door hangers, handed out flyers and tee shirts, gave rides to polls and prepared and served food in three communities. Thanks to all our volunteers who helped us raise the voices of thousands of Wyoming voices and many thanks to the Friends of the ESPC and ESPC organizations that provided the funds essential to getting this work done. ESPC field organizer Cristina Collling put in many long hours on the road helping volunteers in each community organize and plan the efforts in their communities, then joining them in the door-knocking. ESPC intern Jeralee Salmon also put in many hours in the office and walking in north Casper.
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Cheyenne meeting on public pension system

Third public pension town hall tonight

Director Thom Williams again highlights presentation

Meeting in WYDOT Auditorium starts at 7 p.m.

The importance of the public pension system to Wyoming and its communities will again be the focus of  a forum tonight sponsored by the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System. Teachers, fire fighters, nurses and other public servants work hard and rely on the state  system to provide a stable income around which they an build their retirement income plans. The town hall meeting tonight (Nov. 8, 2012) is is the third the coalition has staged to explain Wyoming’s public pension system. Attendees will hear Wyoming Retirement System Director Thom Williams explain the system and the changes made by the Legislature during the 2012 session. Stephen Sommers, the chair of the WRS board of directors, will join Williams to answer questions. The Wyoming system is healthy but must be managed carefully to assure its health over the long-term.

Town hall meeting agenda

  1. 6:45 – 7 p.m. Attendees arrive and sign in. (We need to be certain to have sign-in sheets for attendees.)
  2. 7 p.m. – Welcome – Ken Decaria
  3. 7:05 p.m. – Kevin Reddy, Cheyenne fire fighter
  4. 7:20 p.m. – Cheyenne teacher Marca Fox-Grisby
  5. 7:35  p.m. – Advocating for the system – Dan Neal, ESPC
  6. 7:45 p.m. – Thom Williams, WRS director
  7. 8:15 p.m. – Q&A with Thom Williams and Stephen Sommers
  8. 8:45 p.m. – Meeting adjourns (flexible)
See ESPC news release here.
 
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