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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Legislation to Protect Food Flavoring Workers from Severe Lung Disease Passes House

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By a vote of 260 to 154, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation intended to prevent workers in food processing plants from getting a debilitating, irreversible lung disease that has already sickened and killed a number of workers nationwide.

The legislation would force the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules limiting workers' exposure to diacetyl, a chemical used in artificial food flavoring for microwave popcorn and other foods. Scientists have linked diacetyl exposure to bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe lung disease often known as "popcorn lung." Despite mounting evidence over several years of the dangers of popcorn lung, OSHA has failed to take action to limit diacetyl exposure, prompting the need for the legislation approved by the House today.

"Seven years after the first cases of popcorn lung were identified, it is stunning that OSHA has failed to protect American workers from this horrible disease," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the committee. "The cost of the Bush administration's failure to act can be measured in the number of workers who have avoidably grown ill or died. This legislation is critical to stop the delays in protecting workers from this serious workplace hazard."

"It's a travesty that OSHA has done nothing to regulate this chemical, while workers have fallen seriously ill and some have actually died," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and chief sponsor of the legislation. "That's why it's time for Congress to act to keep workers healthy and safe. Passing this important legislation is a step in the right direction."

Thousands of workers are still being exposed to diacetyl at factories that make or use food flavorings.

The legislation, the Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act (H.R. 2693), would:

Mandate that OSHA issue a standard within 90 days to minimize workers' exposure to diacetyl in popcorn and flavorings manufacturing plants. Employers would be required to develop a written exposure control plan that would use engineering controls and respirators to protect workers, and to conduct medical monitoring to determine whether workers' health continued to be harmed.
Mandate that OSHA issue a more comprehensive standard within two years, covering all workplaces where workers may be exposed to diacetyl.
House Democrats urged the Labor Department to address this serious health hazard in August 2006. For more information and for a copy of the August 2006 letter from House Democrats to the Department of Labor, click here.

The Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on OSHA's failure to issue standards, including one for diacetyl, in April 2007. For more information, click here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

OH Action: Voters Empowered To Overturn SB 117

OH Action: Voters Empowered To Overturn SB 117

Add another chapter to the story of a contentious lead paint/consumer protection law that has already prompted a legal battle between the legislature and Gov. Ted Strickland over a post-session veto that was later invalidated by the Ohio Supreme Court.
A coalition of consumer advocates kicked off a referendum campaign on Friday by delivering an initial petition filing of about 1,800 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office.
The coalition decided to take advantage of the Supreme Court's decision that allowed for a 60-day window for opponents to collect signatures to challenge the law through the referendum process. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 31, 2007)
Committee co-chair Laura McDowall, an Akron consumer attorney, said a referendum would finally offer Ohioans the chance to weigh in on the legislation.
"The law was passed during a lame duck session with absolutely no opportunity for public input," she said. "This referendum campaign is our attempt, the citizens' attempt to allow the people to express what they think about this law."
\n\u003cp\>Gathering the necessary 241,366 valid signatures in the truncated 60-day time frame would be an "incredibly tall order," she allowed. While the Supreme Court technically allowed the standard 90-days, justices started the clock on Aug. 1, the day the court overturned Gov. Strickland's veto of the measure that former Gov. Bob Taft wanted to become law without his signature. We are doing our best to get this done within the timeframe allowed by the Ohio Supreme Court," Ms. McDowall said. "We believe we should have been entitled to the full amount of time that the constitution provides, but we are going to do everything in our power to meet the deadline." The statute (SB117, 126th General Assembly) was intended to block municipalities from filing public nuisance lawsuits against manufacturers to pay for removal of hazardous lead paint from older residential buildings. It also limits damages amounts that juries may award under the Consumer Sales Practices Act," Ms. McDowall said. "The limits on consumer protection damages will basically give dishonest businesses a green light to cheat all they want."The Secretary of State's Office will verify the initial filing contains at least 1,000 valid signatures. The Attorney General's Office is charged with certifying whether the summary of the law is accurate. If the group then successfully collects the required 6% of the total vote cast during the last gubernatorial election, the issue will be placed on the November 2008 ballot. \n\u003c/p\>\n\u003cp\>Meanwhile, the law is still in effect until the coalition files the second round of petitions, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Consumer Advocates to Pursue Referendum on Lead Paint href\u003d\http://www.yourohiorights.org/\


Gathering the necessary 241,366 valid signatures in the truncated 60-day time frame would be an "incredibly tall order," she allowed. While the Supreme Court technically allowed the standard 90-days, justices started the clock on Aug. 1, the day the court overturned Gov. Strickland's veto of the measure that former Gov. Bob Taft wanted to become law without his signature. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 1, 2007)
"We are doing our best to get this done within the timeframe allowed by the Ohio Supreme Court," Ms. McDowall said. "We believe we should have been entitled to the full amount of time that the constitution provides, but we are going to do everything in our power to meet the deadline."
The statute (SB117, 126th General Assembly) was intended to block municipalities from filing public nuisance lawsuits against manufacturers to pay for removal of hazardous lead paint from older residential buildings. It also limits damages amounts that juries may award under the Consumer Sales Practices Act.
"It is a terrible law," Ms. McDowall said. "The limits on consumer protection damages will basically give dishonest businesses a green light to cheat all they want."
The Secretary of State's Office will verify the initial filing contains at least 1,000 valid signatures. The Attorney General's Office is charged with certifying whether the summary of the law is accurate. If the group then successfully collects the required 6% of the total vote cast during the last gubernatorial election, the issue will be placed on the November 2008 ballot.
Meanwhile, the law is still in effect until the coalition files the second round of petitions, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Consumer Advocates to Pursue Referendum on Lead Paint Bill
http://www.yourohiorights.org/


Why This Is A Bad Law
http://www.yourohiorights.org/why-bad.html

Take Action! Circulate A Petition!
http://www.yourohiorights.org/what-to-do.html

Contribute
http://www.yourohiorights.org/contribute.html

This web site is sponsored byPaid for by Voters Empowered To Overturn SB 117, Mark McGinnis, Treasurer, 550 East Walnut Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day: Miller Launches Map of Workplace Fatalities

This Labor Day, Let's Redouble Effort to Improve Worker Safety, Says Chairman Miller Miller also launches interactive map of workplace fatalities

WASHINGTON, D.C. - To honor America's workers this Labor Day, the country should commit to stopping the preventable toll of workplace deaths, injuries, and illnesses that affects workers across industries and occupations each year, said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. To highlight the dangers that many American workers face on the job, Miller today launched a new interactive online map
(http://edlabor.house.gov/issues/workerdeaths.shtml) that enables people to learn about many of the workplace fatalities that have occurred in their own communities this year.

"Each year, thousands of American workers die on the job. Sixteen workers are killed in workplace accidents each day. Ten times that many die of occupational diseases caused b y hazardous substances like asbestos. And every 2.5 seconds, a worker is injured in the United States," said Miller. "This grim toll includes construction workers, public safety workers, and workers at chemical facilities and oil refineries. It includes people who spend most of their time working outdoors, as well as people who work inside office buildings, manufacturing plants, and stores. It in cludes young and old workers. There are simply too many American workers, from all walks of life, who get injured, sick, or killed on the job. On this Labor Day, we should commit ourselves to doing everything we can to improve safety in the workplace."

On August 9, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 5,703 workers died in workplace accidents in 2006. Today, Miller launched an online map of worker fatalities that he hoped would remind Americans of the urgent need for increased efforts to eliminate unsafe conditions on the job. The map relies on published news reports in 2007 to show worker fatalities
nationwide, and it includes information about the workers' occupations and causes of death. The map represents roughly 10 percent of the total number of on-the-job fatalities so far this year.
"The tragedy at Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine reminds us of the dangers that too many workers face every day. It is my hope that the launch of this map will help policymakers and the public understand the extent of workplace fatalities in this country and the importance of acting aggressively to improve workplace safety," said Miller.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and U.S. Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL), a member of the subcommittee, introduced legislation to reduce workplace fatalities, injuries, and sicknesses. The Protecting America's Work ers Act (H.R. 2049) would boost workplace safety by strengthening and expanding the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Specifically, the legislation would:
Apply federal safety standards to workers who are not currently covered, including federal, state, and local employees, and some private sector employees;
Increase penalties against employers for repeated and willful violations of the law, including making felony charges available when an employer's repeated and willful violation of the law leads to a worker's de ath or serious injury;

Better protect workers who blow the whistle on unsafe workplace conditions;
Enhance the public's right to know about safety violations; and
Make clear that employers must provide the necessary safety equipment to their workers, such as goggles, gloves, respirators, or other personal protective equipment.
Miller also said that the Bush administration must do more to vigorously enforce workplace safety laws.

"In hearings held earlier this year, witnesses told the committee that both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration are not doing enough to update basic workplace safety standards and that the agencies have shifted their focus from enforcing the law to providing companies with so-called voluntary compliance assistance," said Miller. "It is well past time that the Bush workplace safety agencies stop fiddling while workers die. They must aggressively enforce the laws they swore to uphold. We must do more to defend the right of all workers to a safe workplace."

To visit the map, click here.: http://edlabor.house.gov/issues/workerdeaths.shtml

For more information about the Protecting America's Workers Act, click here.
http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/edlabor_dem/rel042607.html

For more information about worker safety issues, click here.
http://edlabor.house.gov/issues/workersafety.shtml

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Jon L. Gelman, Attorney at Law
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PO Box 934Wayne NJ 07474-0934
973 696-7900 tel - 973 696-7988 fax
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