Archive | January, 2014

Worker rights

Rock Springs workshop a success The Know Your Rights workshop in Rock Springs Jan. 21 attracted about 25 people who learned about worker rights and the protections Wyoming statutes and federal law provide to protect them.
Adrian Maldonado, a member of Western Energy Workers Local 1978, was on hand to interpret for Spanish speakers.

Adrian Maldonado, a member of Western Energy Workers Local 1978, was on hand to interpret for Spanish speakers.

There are not many legal protections, Mark Aronowitz, an attorney for the Spence Association for Employee Rights, said. He noted that Wyoming’s status as an “at-will” state – meaning employers can terminate a person’s job at any time for any reason – impinge on protections federal law extends to workers who report job hazards or even job injuries. He noted that a “whistleblower” who identifies hazards is protected from immediate retaliation. If a company chooses to wait a few weeks to end the whistleblower’s employment, proving retaliation can be very difficult, he said. Representatives from four Department of Workforce Services agencies outlined how their programs can help workers. Brian Jacobsen and Shelly Johnson explained how the Workers Comp program assists people  injured on the job. Jame Reed briefly explained Unemployment Insurance and how it protects workers who lose a job through no fault of their own. Cherie Doak discussed labor standards, wage protection, and the information employers are required to supply on pay stubs. Dan Bulkley of OSHA talked about a worker’s right to a safe workplace and state OSHA’s inspection programs. He noted that state compliance inspectors often see safety violations simply when driving around the state, a point he illustrated with a photo of worker standing on a ladder while working on an electrical wire and pole – but the ladder was lifted off the ground in a curved backhoe bucket. Bulkley urged reporting of hazards. He noted the courtesy inspection program can be engaged by employers to identify hazards in their work places without risk of a citation and fine if they address and abate any problems. Participants had many questions and comments about how they have been treated in the workplace. Some were broad, including one about the limits of OSHA’s ability to inspect all state work sites with a very small staff of inspectors. One young woman who had recently been laid off had a more detailed question about Unemployment Insurance benefits and how they are affected by any severance or vacation pay.
Cherie Doak of the Department of Workforce Services Labor Compliance program discussed how the state protects worker wages and enforces other standards, such as child labor law.

Cherie Doak of the Department of Workforce Services Labor Compliance program discussed how the state protects worker wages and enforces other standards, such as child labor law.

 
Unemployment insurance claimants must be available to work, noted James Reed, who works in the UI appeals office in Casper.

Unemployment insurance claimants must be available to work, noted James Reed, who works in the UI appeals office in Casper.

The workshop was arranged by the Wyoming Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. Thanks to the Holy Communion Episcopal Church for providing space in the church’s Parish Hall. Also thanks to Western Energy Workers Local 1978, which provided coffee and refreshments. Additions were made to this Jan. 27, 2014 post on Jan. 28.
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Worker rights

Know Your Rights workshop set

Tuesday, Jan. 21 in Rock Springs

Casper advocates plan MLK Day activities Monday

On Tuesday, January 21, the WyCOSH, a project of the ESPC, and our allies will host a Know Your Rights Workshop in Rock Springs at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion Parish Hall (corner of Second and B Streets).
Mark Aronowitz SAFER attorney

Mark Aronowitz
SAFER attorney

We’ll have information in both Spanish and English. The worker rights workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. and ends about 8:30 p.m. It will cover:
  • How labor standards protect workers
  • How and when to report an injury to Workers’ Comp
  • Information on OSHA and workplace safety
  • Employer fraud and whistleblower protection
  • Unemployment Insurance
Mark Aronowitz of the Spence Association for Employee Rights, and representatives of Department of Workforce Services agencies including Dan Bulkley, OSHA; Brian Jacobsen, Workers Compensation; James Reed, Unemployment Insurance; and Cherie Doak, Standards and Compliance, will discuss these topics and more. Speakers will be available to answer questions afterwards. Adrian Maldonado of TRIBE and Western Energy Workers Local 1978 will provide interpretation for Spanish speakers. Organizations sponsoring the workshop include the Wyoming State AFL-CIO, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, the Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER), and the Wyoming Association of Churches. If you know working people in the Rock Springs and Green River area who might be interested in this workshop, please invite them to attend.

Casper celebrates Martin Luther King Day

January 20, 2014 will mark the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. This milestone is a perfect opportunity for Americans to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: “What are you doing for others?” Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. Equality advocates in Casper plan a day of education to help people learn to rise from poverty and simply to use money more wisely as they celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday on the federal holiday. According to Nurieh Glasgow of ServeWyoming, Casper’s Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day Celebration is an important day to remember Dr. King’s work and legacy, and acting on his teachings and principles of nonviolence and human rights. “Our mission at ServeWyoming is improving lives and strengthening Wyoming communities through volunteerism. We are engaged in this event because it also serves as a reminder that the holiday is a day on (not off) for community service initiatives and programs promoting cooperation and this year, elimination of poverty,” says Glasgow. The Casper Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), ServeWyoming, and the First United Methodist Church, have all worked together to celebrate the Martin Luther King Day of Service, according to Glasgow. Casper’s celebration kicks off at 11 a.m. with the annual march starting at City Park, 7th and Center streets. The Natrona County High School ROTC Color Guard will lead the marchers to the First United Methodist Church (FUMC), 302 East 2nd St. Those not wishing to walk may ride in a C.A.T.C. bus in the march or go directly to the church. Dr. Tanis Lovercheck-Saunders, a History professor at Casper College, will give the keynote speech at First United Methodist Church at 11:30 am. She will discuss how the women of the civil rights movement helped move it forward. Event emcee is James Simmons, president of the Casper Branch of the NAACP. Some organizations in attendance will include Wyoming Food For Thought, The American Legion Post 2/Military Assistance Program, Wyoming Veterans Commission, Circles Wyoming, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation, and Casper Housing Authority, according to a statement from NAACP member Janet de Vries. Casper College will present information on how to afford college. Wyoming Senior Citizens Inc. will help people learn about navigating health care and Wyoming Housing Network will discuss their financial training services. ServeWyoming and AmeriCorps are also sponsoring a food drive. Please bring food donations to benefit both the Holy Cross Food Bank and Wyoming Food For Thought. Specific food needed includes: Tuna, Peanut Butter, Granola Bars, Cereal, Canned soup or ready-to-eat meals, jerky, dried fruit, and fruit cups. The celebration has been made possible with support from, the Casper NAACP, Sam’s Club, For more information, contact Nurieh Glasgow, ServeWyoming, 234-3428 or Janet de Vries, Casper NAACP, 268-2446. Thanks to the NAACP for information about MLK Day plans in Casper. This post was edited Friday Jan. 17, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.
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Medicaid expansion

Labor panel backs two Medicaid bills

Decision ensures full legislative debate in 2014

Rev. Dee Lundberg of Casper addresses a rally of people who support expanding Medicaid in Wyoming.

Rev. Dee Lundberg of Casper addresses a rally of people who support expanding Medicaid in Wyoming.

In its 2014 Budget session, the Wyoming Legislature again will debate expanding Medicaid to deliver health insurance to more than 17,000 Wyoming residents. The chances for that debate did not look strong until Thursday and Friday of this week, when people advocating for the expansion convinced the members of the Joint Interim Labor, Health and Social Services Committee to advance two bills to the full Legislature. A rally organized Thursday by the Wyoming Association of Churches Thursday brought together about 200 people who heard speeches by Rev. Dee Lundberg of Casper and Rev. Rodger McDaniel of Cheyenne, focusing on the moral reasons for making healthcare available to more people. During the committee hearing Thursday morning, a number of witnesses testified to the need to make Medicaid insurance available to low-income adults with no children. Under the current system, Medicaid is available only to the following categories: aged/blind/disabled; pregnant women; children; and caretaker adults. All categories must be low-income. The witnesses’ testimony about the critical need for access to health insurance echoed comments made by members of the Wind River tribes who addressed the Select Committee on Tribal Relations on Jan. 7 in Fort Washakie. Tribal officials noted that Indian Health Services is under-funded. “We are funded at 45 percent of our actual need,” Richard Brannan, the director of IHS on the reservation. Lack of access to healthcare coupled with chronic disease, behavioral issues, and violence mean reservation residents have an expected life span of just 53 years – lower for men. At Friday’s hearing, Chairwoman Elaine Harvey voted for one of the bills passed by the committee, a version of Medicaid expansion based on legislation passed by Arkansas earlier this year. She said the committee has a responsibility to ensure a full legislative discussion of the issue. “I would hate to think that 12 people would decide for the whole state to not do any kind of Medicaid expansion at all,” said Harvey, R-HD26, Lovell. Advocates for the expansion now must assess the bills approved by the committee and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.  The Budget session opens Feb. 10. Here are links to the bills: Medicaid expansions – limited benefits – 14LSO0139.C1 (Medicaid Fit) Medicaid expansion – insurance pool. – 14LSO0140.C1 (Arkansas model with modifications) The Casper Star-Tribune reported the votes on both bills: Voting in favor of “Medicaid Fit” were Sen. James L. Anderson, R-SD28, Casper; Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette; Sen. Bernadine Craft, D-SD12, Rock Springs; Rep. Lee Filer, D-HD12, Cheyenne; Rep. Matt Greene, R-HD45, Laramie; Rep. Mary Throne, D-HD11, Cheyenne, and Rep. Sue Wilson, R-HD7, Cheyenne. Voting no were Rep. Norine Kasperik, R-HD32, Gillette; Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-HD54, Lander; Sen. Ray Peterson, R-SD19, Cowley; Sen. Charles Scott, R-SD30, Casper; and Rep. Harvey. The committee voted 8 to 4 in favor of a bill, called “Insurance Pool,” that would allow the use of Medicaid funds to pay premiums for approved health care coverage offered by the federal insurance exchange. The vote for “Insurance Pool” was the same as the vote for “Medicaid Fit,” except that Rep. Harvey voted yes. Photo credit: Chesie Lee/Wyoming Association of Churches  
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