Today's Fair Shots - April 27th, 2017

1-Young Workers Come to Austin to Testify Against Senate Billb75/House Bill 1987

2-Buy American' Bill Clears a Second Legislative Committee

3-'Death on the Job' Report Shows Texas Above Average in Rate of Workplace Fatalities

4-Hearing Held on Bill to Strengthen Regulation of Farmworker Housing

5-ULLCO Submits Testimony Supporting Bill to Provide Paid Leave for Working People

6-ULLCO Opposes Voucher-Related Bill

7-Stekler: Without Film Incentive Program, Texas Will Lose Out on Major Movies, TV Series

1- Young workers speak against Senate Bill 75/House Bill 1987, which would require minors to obtain parental consent to join a union. 

A hearing on HB 1987 by Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, the bill that would require parental consent for a minor to join a labor union, was heard today at 8 a.m. before the House Small Business and Economic Development Committee. The United Labor Legislative Committee was at the hearing to oppose the bill, which is the identical House version of SB 75. The bill has cleared the Senate.

Do something! Sign a petition against this lousy bill:

2-  SB 1289, the "Buy American" bill by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has passed the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on a unanimous vote. The measure joins the identical HB 2780 by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, which also won committee approval in the House.

 The bill would establish a modest preference for American iron and steel in construction projects funded by state dollars. As in previous legislative sessions, the United Steelworkers union has played a key role in promoting the measure. The union is joined by steel industry leaders. And the bill has benefited from a national political environment that is producing bipartisan support for maintaining a strong domestic steel industry.

  The United Labor Legislative Committee has endorsed the bill.

3- The AFL-CIO's annual release of the "Death on the Job" report counts 150 working people who die each day at work in the U.S.

  That is a grim statistic, and it arrives two days ahead of Workers Memorial Day. Another annual statistic that is just as grim: Given its number of inspectors, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would take 159 years to inspect every workplace one time (168 years in Texas).

  The good news is that the long-term national trend on workplace deaths is downward. The 3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2015, the most recent year covered in the study, is less than one-fifth the death rate when OSHA was enacted under President Richard Nixon. But some of the bad news is that Texas is worse than average, with 4.5 deaths per 100,000 workers; 527 deaths on the job were reported in our state in 2015. Latino workers, and particularly immigrant workers, saw a national increase in deaths in 2015.

  From the AFL-CIO:

  In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.

  "Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day."

  The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia. 

  According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015-the highest number since 2007.

  The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015-the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.

  See the full report:

4- A bill that would strengthen inspections of migrant farmworker housing is pending after an emotional hearing in a House committee, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

  HB 2365 by Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, follows an investigation by the newspaper into atrocious living conditions for farmworkers. The United Labor Legislative Committee endorsed Romero's bill:

  In emotional testimony Tuesday, Texas farmworkers and advocates urged a House committee to pass a bill that would strengthen inspections of housing for agricultural workers, increase penalties on violators and require state regulators to look for unlicensed facilities.

  Justino De Leon, a longtime farmworker from Pharr, told members of the House Committee on Urban Affairs that he often was forced to live in unlicensed facilities with appalling conditions. "We slept on the floor, on cardboard, with a broken air conditioning," he said. "Some had to sleep in their trucks. There were lots of mosquitoes."



  Daniela Dwyer, head of the farmworker program at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., showed the committee photos taken at an unlicensed housing facility in Premont last week with broken windows, large insects and no furnishings. Many such facilities are suspected to exist across the state, out of the reach of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which is tasked with inspecting farmworker housing facilities.

  In 2015, the department spent less than $2,500 to conduct about 40 inspections of housing facilities provided by growers and labor contractors, most clustered in cotton-growing regions of the Panhandle. As a result, an estimated 9 in 10 Texas migrant farmworkers lack access to licensed housing that meets minimum health and safety standards required by state and federal law.

  State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, the author of HB 2365, said the bill was a response to the fact that "we've gotten away from minimum standards" to protect the workers who power an industry that generates $8 billion a year.

  "For too long we've overlooked when an agency... fails to do its job," he said. "Inaction, to me, is inexcusable."

  Read more:

5-Texas AFL-CIO Legislative Director René Lara testified in favor of HB 3483 by Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, which would require employers to provide up to 40 hours of annual paid leave for their employees. The bill sets up certain steps to be taken before an employee can take the leave.

  The intent of the bill is to provide an opportunity for working people, for example, to attend their children's school events or help out an aging parent, but the measure does not place any limits on the purpose for taking leave.

  Truth of the matter, I'm optimistic on every piece of pro-worker legislation, and make no mistake, this is something that working people need and already receive from many employers in our state who understand that there is more to working people's lives than what occurs in the four corners of a workplace.

  But I'm not pie-eyed enough to think the bill has a real chance to become law this year. Employer interests remain arrayed against it and much of the state leadership is focusing on priorities that are the opposite of what the bill stands for. Rep. Collier no doubt understands this, but proceeded, knowing that at some point in the future, conditions will change and her proposal will ripen. And the chair of the House Business and Industry Committee - Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville - thought enough of the bill to give it a hearing.

  From Brother Lara's testimony:

  House Bill 3483 will allow employees in businesses with 50 or more employees to earn one hour of leave for every 30 hours of work up to a total of 40 hours per year. The paid leave accumulated by each worker could be used "for any purpose," which means that Texas workers could attend their child's school function, care for a sick parent, or otherwise allow for a better work/life balance.
  As you heard earlier on the subject of parental leave, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide such a benefit to its workforce.  House Bill 3483 is just a small step in that direction. Texas employees are due at least a small amount of recognition for the hard work they contribute to our state's economy, which is one of the largest in the world. 
  Data collected from 1973 to 2013 indicate that worker productivity has gone up 74.4 percent while hourly compensation has gone up a mere 9.3 percent. If Texas workers cannot fully share in the economic prosperity they helped generate, we ought to at least guarantee them a week's worth of time to dedicate towards their family and other personal responsibilities. 

6-The United Labor Legislative Committee yesterday OPPOSED HB 4193 by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, a school voucher bill that would set up a "credit account program" for special education students. The bill is notable for its distinct way of couching the privatization concept, but raises the same old issue of steering taxpayer dollars from your neighborhood public schools to unaccountable private schools.

7- Documentary film-maker Paul Stekler posted a column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram lamenting what will happen in Texas if the Texas House's decision to cut all funding for film incentives wins the day.

  The International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees has backed such funding over many years, pointing up that the investment made by taxpayers in drawing movies and other entertainment vehicles to Texas pays off in multiples.

  Last year's Oscar-nominated movie "Hell or High Water," set in Texas, was actually filmed in New Mexico, where the incentives were better. Stekler says that might happen again:

  AMC recently premiered 10 episodes of "The Son," a series based on the celebrated novel spanning generations of Texans written by Austin novelist Philipp Meyer.

  Reviews highlighted that it was filmed on location here in Texas, with the landscape giving the series an epic heft.

  If our Legislature eliminates the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program - which there is serious talk of doing - a second season of this Texas story probably will be filmed in New Mexico...

  The Texas Film Commission says that the incentive money spent during the past decade, $168.4 million, has led to the creation of nearly 20,000 full-time jobs and $1.14 billion in spending in Texas. 

  Given the strict rules of the incentive program, the money is not going to Los Angeles; it's going to salaries and film-related businesses right here.

  Thank goodness we had enough of an incentive plan in the recent past to keep the iconic Texas football series "Friday Night Lights" from being filmed in Louisiana. But even it might have left given the economics today. 

  Shows like HBO's "The Leftovers," "American Crime" and even Austin director Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" TV series have all left Texas of late.

  Read more here: