2006-06-02 / Columnists

The Progressive

By John Paul Culotta

Last time the Progressive wrote about the lack of a safety net for many workers in our nation, the need for unions to be allowed and encouraged to organize workers, and the unfair exemption of religious organizations regarding pension security for their employees. It appears that the present administration is adamantly opposed to worker participation in the workplace.

Many agencies assigned to protecting employees feel their mission is to protect the property interests of corporations. Increasingly we have become a government of the corporations and for the corporations.

Government employees also work in unsafe working environments. Many public employees are assaulted when they serve us each day. The New York State Public Employees Federation has stated: "The annual cost of violence in public worksites in New York is estimated to be in excess of $125 million in workers' compensation and related costs."

The union is now campaigning for workplace safety for its members. This proves my contention that honest progressive unions can be a catalyst for beneficial change. All citizens will benefit if workers have an effective and real voice whether in a coalmine, meat packing plant, religious organization, school, office, and hospitals.

The New York State Public Employees Federation is sponsoring legislation that will require all public employees to submit evaluations regarding risk factors that may lead to assaults at their workplace. This legislation will allow the employees to recommend methods to reduce workplace violence.

The union is also requesting an amendment to the Civil Service Law that would require the Department of Civil Service prepare an annual report on injury rates among state employees and the costs that the injuries for the state taxpayers.

Judi Sanlon was a nurse that worked for the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) and was murdered by a client a few years ago. Legislation called the Judi Sanlon Bill S.207/A2570 has been proposed. It directs the OMH to require their employees to enter the residence of a client with a serious mental illness accompanied and requires annual training in the prevention of violence by OMH case managers. The law would restrict caseloads for intensive care managers and provide a mobile phone for these case managers.

A few months ago, we all heard about the safety issue that arose when the government of Dubai was given contracts to lease several American ports. Dubai has now been given approval to take control of nine plants that manufactures parts for military tanks and aircraft.

As we rely on our military to fight international terrorists and protect our borders, it may be appropriate for such strategic manufacturing be American run and owned.

A few months ago the Progressive spoke of the safety needs of children in our foster care system and the proposal of the state of Missouri to cut aid to parents adopting foster children. I am happy to report that a federal judge has ruled that this state law in Missouri, which was proposed by the Republican Governor, violates federal statutes and the Constitution's equal protection clause. It appears legislators and executives need to study our Constitution and analyze the needs of our most vulnerable citizens when proposing funding changes. Our safety net demands children be protected and that the securing of permanent secure homes for all our children must be our nation's priority.

The recent ban of cell phones in our city schools by Commissioner Klein has raised concerns of parents. We live in probably the most desirable target for terrorists.

Our city has endured electric blackouts and brownouts, major fires, racist attacks, traffic delays, and fires. We consider these events as the price we pay for living in the world's capital. It appears many of us feel parents and their offspring need the security of cell phone availability.

Educational distraction can be curtailed by effective mentoring by the teaching staff. The teachers appear to agree with the parent groups. Dictatorial control by Klein and our mayor does not ensure a safe school environment.

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