The epidemic control efforts unfolding today in China—including placing some 100 million citizens on lockdown, shutting down a national holiday, building enormous quarantine hospitals in days’ time, and ramping up 24-hour manufacturing of medical equipment—are indeed gargantuan. It’s impossible to watch them without wondering, “What would we do? How would my government respond if this virus spread across my country?”
For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion. If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it isIf the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is—not just for the public but for the government itself, which largely finds itself in the dark.
footnote: This was back in January, where has Trump been?
The asbestos national ban was a particularly significant victory for Canada’s building trades, and of course the Insulators, who work on the front lines helping to protect society from the harms of this deadly substance and often put themselves, their families and loved ones in harm’s way.
The Insulators led the charge for the asbestos ban. They are also holding the government accountable to ensure they follow through on their promise – and part of following through is addressing the legacy left behind in our buildings and our workers. Canada’s Insulators are focused on supporting a national strategy for dealing with the legacy of asbestos, starting with a National Patient Registry for Mesothelioma – the very rare type of cancer whose victims can almost always trace their disease back to asbestos exposure.
Working closely with Canada’s Building Trades Union (CBTU), the Insulators are advocating for the patient registry as part of completing the work begun under the asbestos ban. In July, International Vice President Paul Faulkner and Local 95 Government and Community Relations Director Adam Melnick, joined forces with CBTU Executive Director Arlene Dunn and Dr. Alec Farquhar, from Asbestos Free Canada, in a pivotal meeting with the office of the Minister of Labour to discuss this proposal. This meeting was the culmination of considerable lobbying over many months, including the submission of a detailed briefing notes prepared in collaboration with the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation.
These are not isolated stories. As early as February 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted a decline in net farm income to its lowest level since 2002 (adjusted for inflation), with median farm income projected at negative $1,316. For well over a year, worries about a new farm crisis have rippled across rural America. The very term is synonymous with the 1980s, when the bottom dropped out of the agricultural economy, sending thousands of farms into foreclosure and shuttering businesses.
Grain and dairy farmers were beginning to see a repeat of the ‘80s as their prices dropped this spring — and then President Trump started a trade war. Retaliatory agricultural tariffs have kicked this new farm crisis into high gear. The president is offering $12 billion in farm aid to ease the pain, but neither those payments nor the farm bill being hammered out in Congress will substantially change the outlook for farm country. Ever since federal farm policy told farmers to “get big or get out” in the ‘70s, the push toward consolidation has created decades of slow-burning crisis for many farmers. The problem has some rural residents re-envisioning rural policy from the ground up.
“When should we as a society paternalistically decide [that employees should be protected from] the risk of significant physical injury?” Kavanagh wrote in his dissent. Not only was this an extreme position—one few have espoused on the bench—but it completely contravenes Congress’s intent when it passed the workplace safety law more than four decades ago.
A bipartisan Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, and President Richard Nixon signed the legislation into law. It provided workers with the fundamental right to go to work and come home every day; workers should not have to sacrifice their lives for a paycheck. The law is clear that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace.