Why we need to Protect our unions from Janus

A Supreme Court case with a 40-year precedent has been brought back to the future. On February 26th, the Supreme Court began hearings on Janus vs. AFSCME and the constitutionality of compulsory Fair Share fees. These fees are paid by non-union employees who work in unionized jobs but are still represented by the union during contract negotiations and collective bargaining. The 1977 precursor to this, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, determined that fees by non-union members could not be used for political purposes. Janus’ response to this is that unions are inherently political due to the activities of negotiating, bargaining, and the general goings-on that give union employees a voice in their workplace. Many expect the case to have a verdict by June. On top of that similar cases in the past have shown an unfavorable pattern for unions, noted in an article on USA Today:

“The court has ruled 7-2, 5-4 and 4-4 on three similar cases in the past six years, eating away at that 1977 decision without overruling it entirely. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a month after oral argument denied conservatives their fifth vote — a vote Justice Neil Gorsuch is widely expected to provide.”

While opponents of the law are citing free speech as the main issue at hand, those supporting the law are drawing on the fact that many of the opponents are those who want to see a complete deregulation of business and workers rights.

New York is the most unionized state in the U.S., with hundreds of unions representing thousands of those who make our lives livable. Roughly 70% of public employees in New York belong to a union. Firefighters, police officers, correction officers, nurses, bus drivers, train operators, engineers, sanitation workers-the list is virtually endless. According to an article written in New York Times, 27% of federal employees belong to a union. On February 24th, dubbed Working Peoples Day of Action, two of New York’s leaders and thousands of union members protested and made their position clear-they will not stand to have Janus overturned.

Many unions are saying that overturning Janus would pull funding away from the very things that make unions so important. Union’s provide the opportunity for each employee to have their voice heard, and heard loud. The expected decision of this would hinder the chance for employees to have a say in their work place, their administration, wages, and more. They provide the opportunity for a say in pensions, health care-things that are imperative to the families of union employees. Dismantling the financial structure of such an important force would be detrimental to union employees, union families, and the city and state systems that unions work for.

Links

Cuomo, de Blasio rally with unions over pending court ruling

Massive Labor-Rights Rally Set for Feb. 24

Supreme Court may deal major blow to labor unions

Federal Unions Show How to Survive Even Without Agency Fees

A Supreme Court Showdown Could Shrink Unions’ Power

Mayor to close GMDC at Rikers

NYC to Close One Jail on Rikers Island This Summer

First Rikers Island jail to close in summer as part of city’s 10-year plan to shut down the complex

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island will break ground this summer at the George Motchan Detention Center. Officials working with Mayor said GMDC was chosen as the first due to structural reasons.

The Rikers Island jail population takes up the lion’s share of the citywide jail population-roughly 7,000 to the city’s almost 9,000. The Mayor had little to say about how a large spike in violence in 2017 ran concurrent to the downsizing. Closing the jail would create astronomical problems for inmates and CO’s alike, and already has.

In a statement from our partner, Sean Riordan, Esq., “In the Mayor’s continual attempt to close Rikers Island he has announced the pending closure of GMDC. This closure can only be viewed as creating a greater risk to the personal safety of Correction Officers throughout Rikers Island. As attacks on officers have risen drastically in 2017, further crowding of existing facilities will create untold dangers for officers in 2018 and beyond. The “re-thinking” of the city’s jail system should not be done at the expense of officer safety.”

“With vicious assaults on correction officers occurring nearly every week, along with a near 30% increase in inmate-on-inmate slashings and stabbings department-wide, we had hoped Mayor de Blasio would have announced a plan today to make the jails safer,” said Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen.”, quoted from NY Daily News.

NYCERS: Why are more WTC Claims being denied than approved?

A number of news publications in New York have released articles begging the same question: Why isn’t NYCERS doing more for workers who were involved in 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations?

The links below aren’t the first of the articles. It goes without saying that one article written about this is one too many. They all come to the same conclusion, stating that NYCERS isn’t doing enough to look at, or even consider, 9/11 Disability cases. Statistically, more of these claims are being denied than approved-that is if claims are looked at in any reasonable amount of time. Workers affected in the Battery Park neighborhood were given the right in November to sue the Battery Park City Authority for not working faster with their claims. No one should have to sue their city to be able to receive benefits for working under such tragic conditions. One FDNY EMT’s claim was denied twice, written about in an article linked below. An article written by The Chief Leader described a “lack of coordination” between NYCERS and the Victims Compensation Fund.

These are six articles from 3 different publications, all ending with the same answer: There is no rhyme or reason why more isn’t being done for those who have sustained 9/11-related illnesses.

Labor Department denies ex-OSHA inspector workers’ compensation as other agencies accept his 9/11 illness

NYCERS, WTC Disability Advocates Meet About Improving Responsiveness

Stop stalling on WTC sick: U.S. Labor Department and NYCERS are failing 9/11 victims

City is denying 9/11 first responders disability pensions

WTC Health Program Doctor Concerned About Benefit Denials

9/11 Cleanup Workers Can Sue Over Health Claims, Court Rules

Continued battle for 9/11 First Responders benefits

Recently, the civil service publication The Chief Leader published several articles discussing the state of 9/11-related disability claims being processed at NYCERS. Statistically, WTC Disability claims are on the chopping block. More are being denied than approved, and the ones that are usually denied take years to be evaluated. Other issues at hand are transparency during the process of filing and overall treatment of claims and claimants by the Medical Board.

Our partner, Sean Riordan, Esq. and several other WTC Disability advocates met with the leading members of NYCERS to address the sluggish turnover rate, the unfortunately high denial rate, and ways to fix the two. Though issues of the handling of claims and claimants is still present, the meeting was regarded as positive:

“On Dec. 7, Melanie Whinnery, the system’s Executive Director, and Ilyse Sisolak, its General Counsel, met with John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, Sean Riordan, legal counsel for the FealGood Foundation, Ben Chevat, the executive director of 9/11 Health Watch, and attorneys Matthew McCauley and Michael Barasch, who specialize in WTC disability claims.

Also in attendance was Dr. Michael Crane, the medical director at the WTC Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai. The meeting lasted 90 minutes.

Both sides were upbeat about the value of the meeting and the prospects for finding common ground going forward. The 9/11-disability advocates presented NYCERS with a four-page memo obtained by this newspaper that highlights dozens of areas where the process could be more transparent and less adversarial, according to the advocates.”, as quoted from the article linked below.

NYCERS, WTC Disability Advocates Meet About Improving Responsiveness

November 2017 NYS WCB Proposal Summary

Back in September, thousands of injured workers, legislators, and other advocates stood with us in a far-reaching fight to stop the disastrous changes proposed by the NYS Worker’s Compensation Board. The public comment period ended in October and as a result of the uprising, the NYS WCB rescinded the initial proposal. November 22nd, the second proposal was released. A summary of it, written by our partner Richard Donohue, Esq., is below. The period for public comment for this ends 12/22/2017. You can email regulations@wcb.ny.gov before then to voice your opinions or concerns on the changes.


 

NOVEMBER 2017 PROPOSED SCHEDULE LOSS OF USE GUIDELINE CHANGES

 As indicated previously, the Board, under the direction of the New York State Legislature, has issued regulation changes and proposed amendments to the “Impairment Guidelines for Schedule Loss of Use”.  Their initial proposal dated 9/1/17 caused an extreme and fervent backlash from the labor community as well as from claimants and their attorneys during the public comment period which expired 10/23/17.  As a result, the Board issued a second set of proposed regulations and guidelines dated 11/22/17 regarding Schedule Loss of Use.

The November 2017 proposal rescinded the September proposal and also carried forward most of the existing schedule loss permanency guidelines, with several significant exceptions.  Although we are not in agreement with all the changes proposed in the November 2017 guidelines, we believe that this guideline proposal is a significant improvement over the initial September 2017 guideline proposal which would have devastated injured claimants and eliminated most awards for permanent loss of use to extremities.

Significantly, the November 2017 proposal eliminates the assignment of 10% to 15% schedule loss of use for rotator cuff tears, a proposal in which we are not in agreement and believe will result in lower awards for permanent shoulder injuries.  Additionally, the current existing guidelines arguably permit the addition of percentage losses for both forward flexion and abduction, whereas the November 2017 proposal states that only the greater of the two losses should be used in calculating the percentage loss of use.  We believe this will also result in lower awards for permanent shoulder injuries.

With regard to injuries to the elbow, some of the considerations given for mild to moderate loss of flexion are reduced insofar as the existing guidelines give a range from 7.5% to 10% whereas the new guidelines indicate only 7.5% for mild loss of flexion.  Whereas the range for moderate loss of flexion was 33.33% to 40%, the new guidelines indicate that only 33% loss of use would be given for moderate loss of flexion in the elbow joint.  We believe this will also result in lower monetary awards for permanent injuries to the elbow.  Similar reductions were incorporated into the guidelines for the hand.

Importantly, the new guidelines also delete a 7.5% schedule loss of use attributable for meniscus tears in the knee, whereas before they were approximately in the average range of 15% to 20% under the existing guidelines.

Changes were also made in the new guidelines proposal with regard to total joint replacements of both the knee and the hip which reflect advances in surgical techniques that have resulted in better outcomes for these type of surgeries.  Although we agree with the general proposal that the baseline for any schedule loss of use relative to total hip and knee injuries should begin at 35%, we believe the way the current proposal is written incorporates many range of motion finding deficits, thus making it unlikely that the final award will exceed the 35% figure, except in the event of a disastrous medical result.  Range of motion deficits should be added to the 35% baseline figure, not included in it.

Certainly, while the November 2017 proposal represents a significant advance over the prior September 2017 proposal which, again, was disastrous for injured workers, we believe that there remain areas in which benefits for injured workers can be improved by eliminating some or all of the aforementioned guideline changes.

NYPD’s ShotSpotter yields positive results

NYPD is reporting that the gunshot-locating technology ShotSpotter has helped lower shootings throughout Brooklyn and the Bronx. An article on nydailynews.com grants a number of accomplishments as a result of the technology: “The rise comes as both arrests by police and complaints against officers are down substantially while the department adheres to a new policing philosophy that stresses a closer relationship between cops and the neighborhoods they serve.” Another triumph is noted by the same article, stating that, “…34% of shootings detected by ShotSpotter also resulting in a 911 call, according to 2016 statistics.” The technology can detect acoustics and is able to differentiate between gunshots and other loud noises that typically come with living in The Big Apple.

The implementation of the technology was a move to help officers and community members. With a possible federal budget cut looming, this program cannot afford to be lost considering its results. The technology draws a picture of how many detected shots are called into 911 and how many aren’t. The data collected will tell cops how New Yorkers are responding to shootings. Not only has it statistically cut the number of non-reported gunshots almost in half, but it also draws a clearer picture of shootings. Nearly all ShotSpotter-detected shootings that were associated with a 911 call resulted in a weapon being obtained from the crime scene. More weapons are being collected and more calls are being made as a result of this technology. According to an article posted on NY1.com the year the technology first implemented, it covered three housing districts and 17 precincts. It has doubled in reach since then.

This technology has been in place for about two years, but the improvements in the data are new, as well as the plan to expand this technology to all five boroughs.

NYPD: New ‘ShotSpotter’ Sensors Automatically Detect Location of Gunfire

EXCLUSIVE: NYPD ShotSpotter gunfire sensors improve rates of 911 calls, arrests

 

NYPD gears up after London attack in wake of proposed budget cut

Last week, the Trump administration released their plan for a 10% spike in military spending. Roughly $700 million in federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security would be cut, according to an article posted on Newsday.com. These are the same grants that provide funding for counterterrorism efforts for local law enforcement agencies across the country, affecting everything from equipment to manpower. An estimated $110 million in DHS grants would be cut from their budget. Considering the NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the country, this kind of cut to their nearly $5 Billion budget is worrisome, to say the least. Senator Chuck Schumer and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill appeared in Washington DC to show how important this funding is. Commissioner O’Neill stated in a New York Daily News article, “This is critical for our operation… that $110 million represents about 600 cops. I don’t think there’s clearer terms than that.” The $110 Million cut is just one estimated slash. An article on NYMag.com says that the cut could be as high has $190 million. Schumer told New York Daily News that in 2016 the NYPD received $180 million in DHS grants for the same kind of programs and operations that would be defunded under the currently proposed budget plan, which means that all or most of what the NYPD has to support their counterterrorism programs would be taken away.

This came shortly before a terror attack in London this week. New York City and the NYPD responded by ramping up security at its British locations, according to Newsday. The British Consulate General and the U.K. Mission to the U.N. are just two locations that have been given extra security. Most of the security for these locations came from the NYPD’s Critical Response Command, a team that would greatly feel the weight of the budget cuts, along with other crucial counterterrorism programs. Schumer has been successful in stopping these kinds of budget cuts to the city in the past, and we can only hope he and Commissioner O’Neill are successful in stopping this now.

Please see the articles below for sources and further information.

London attack: NYPD steps up security at British locations in NYC

EXCLUSIVE: NYPD top cop James O’Neill visits Washington to battle Trump’s security funding cuts

NYPD top cop James O’Neill says Trump’s budget would severely impede the city’s fight against terrorism

Schumer: Trump would cut $200M from NYPD anti-terrorism, other funds

NYPD Commissioner Says Trump’s Budget Would ‘Hobble’ Counterterrorism Efforts

 

New FDNY methods, programs improve performance

For the first time, the FDNY deployed one of its three drones over a fire in the Bronx. Having a birds-eye view helped the crew on the ground monitor the safety of the group trying to control the fire, as well as letting them better direct them as well. This ultimately lead to the ground team being able to keep firefighters safeThe drone was manned by firefighters who are part of the FDNY Command Tactical Unit, who are trained specifically to operate the drones. An article posted on www1.nyc.gov goes into greater detail, stating, “The FDNY drone is tethered using a small cable that carries electricity up to the device, which gives the drone an unlimited flight time. The drone can stay aloft for as long as necessary to keep an aerial view on the target. All controls, data, and power transmit back and forth through the tether preventing interference with radio frequency signals. The drone is piloted by specially trained FDNY Firefighters from the Department’s Command Tactical Unit. The Department currently has three drones in its fleet to deploy as needed.” The safety of these firefighters and individuals alike is paramount to the FDNY, and new technology has only helped that cause.

The use of their drones is not the only new method they’ve used. The FDNY has recently reported being able to respond to medical emergencies quicker due to ‘fly cars’. The pilot program, which took off last summer according to the New York Post, has cut response time by more than a minute. As detailed by an article on NY Post, “Fly cars are accompanied by pared down “basic life support” ambulances, which can transport people to the hospital. If the fly car’s paramedic and lieutenant are no longer needed to perform first aid, they can then move on to the next emergency.”

FDNY commissioner touts faster response times with ‘fly cars’

FDNY Launches Drone For The First Time To Respond to Fire In The Bronx

Work site safety hazards results in lawsuit

A Long Island man has suffered two severed nerves and three severed veins after falling from part of a construction work site that lacked a secure and safe exit point. According to DNAinfo.com, Michael Hickey was injured while working in 2015 on the new water tunnel that will soon connect Staten Island and Brooklyn. “The suit claims the city failed to provide a “scaffold, ladder and/or other safety device” to help workers climb out of the tunnel during construction. Workers instead had to climb a patch of land that had “slick, slippery rocks hidden beneath muck and unlevel, hole-laden, raised depressed and obscured surface,” as quoted from DNAinfo.com. The suit was filed against the city for $2 million. Due to the severity of his injuries, Hickey was unable to continue his work at the construction site. The article notes that Hickey’s lawsuit was transferred on February 25th, 2017 to a Staten Island court after it was initially filed in Brooklyn.

Work site safety in the construction industry has been a topic of severity for the past few years. It recently came to a head in January when 21 new bills were introduced to bolster work site safety. To further reflect the importance of this, an article posted on NYDailynews.com states “Incidents involving either fatalities or injuries jumped from 128 in 2011 to 435 in 2015 in the state as a whole. Meanwhile, the number of safety inspections by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state fell each year, from 2,722 in 2011 to 1,966 in 2015, the study found. That’s a drop of about 27%, and the study said that’s mostly because of a reduction in the number of OSHA inspectors in New York State — from 82 in 2012 to 66 in 2015.”

This is all came prior to a bill recently submitted by  Housing and Building Committee Chair Jumaane Williams and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, along with the support of other City officials, to help mandate better safety training and skills for workers.

Please see the links below for more information.

City Forced Workers to Scale Muddy Bank to Exit Water Tunnel, Lawsuit Says

City Council can protect NYC workers from construction accidents by mandating better training

 

 

 

Neighborhood Policing initiative receives $20 Mil budget

In the wake of a newly ratified NYPD PBA contract, the NYPD just received a hefty budget for their Queens precincts to bolster Mayor de Blasio’s Neighborhood Policing Initiative. The new PBA contract includes a 2.25% raise as part of the program but will be going to all officers regardless of their participation. According to an article posted on AM New York, the breakdown of the budget is as follows;

  • Just over half of the budget will be going to purchasing vehicles for all Queens precincts-164 total vehicles.
  • Close to $3 Million will be spent on technology for recruits and their superiors, specifically tablets.
  • Over $2 Million will be spent on replacing old AEDs with new ones.
  • $1.6 Million will be spent on providing NYPD members with safer gun holsters.

Please see the link below for more information.

NYPD gets more than $20M for new equipment in Queens precincts