The Benefits of a Labor Union to an Employee

No matter who you are or in which US state you live, one necessary thing that you surely desire is a stable, good-paying job. Well, there are many others, of course, like a 40-hour work week, overtime pay and paid vacation, but job stability still ranks first.

The many changes in the job sector, however, are obviously not pointing towards the fulfillment of such desire as more and more employers (all across the US) are beginning to adopt the “employment at will” doctrine, which gives them the legal power to dismiss an employee even without good reason, as well as find ways that will minimize their duty to providing employees with good pension coverage, health insurance and/or a safe and healthy working environment. And by sending more jobs off-shore, contracting out jobs, hiring more part-time, contractual or project-based workers, and regular down-sizing, job instability only continues to rise – all for the purpose of gaining bigger profits (often) at the expense of the workers/employees.

Believe it or not, the sad plight of workers was a very common sight too during the 19th and (early) 20th centuries. And if it were not for the unions that workers formed during those days, it will be hard to even think about the conditions workers may be in today.

Unions are essential because these help improve the lives of workers and their families; but more than just this, unions greatly contribute to the nation’s economic growth and help guarantee solvency of a business firm through lower employee turnover, higher productivity, a better-trained and more competitive workforce, improved communication in the workplace, quality of product and service, and health and safety in the workplace.

The first union in the US was the National Labor Union (NLU), founded in 1866, followed by Knights of Labor in 1869. The most famous, though, was the one formed in 1886 – American Federation of Labor (AFL). It was the AFL that was successful in negotiating an increase in the wage of its members and in enhancing safety in the workplace. Based on the 2010 report of the Bureau of Labor Statistic, there are now more than 60 unions representing more than 14 million employees in the United States, people employed as nurses, engineers, IT/computer professionals, police officers, teachers, writers, government workers, airline pilots, mechanics, doctors, construction workers, pharmacists, office workers, actors, plumbers, factory workers, and so many other types of work.

Besides helping ensure fair treatment in any working environment, unions also provide a seeming endless list of benefits to all its members, like a wage that is 30% higher than non-union members, discounts in so many establishments and to many types of services. Furthermore, because of unions, workers and employees now enjoy: at least the state-determined minimum wage, 8-hour work day, weekends without work, sick leave, paid vacation, anti- discrimination laws, lunch breaks and other breaks at work, social security, workers’ compensation, holiday pay, employer health care insurance, overtime pay, pensions, compensation increases and evaluations, employer dental, life, and vision insurance, the right to strike, unemployment insurance, wrongful termination laws, whistleblower protection laws, and a whole lot more.

Due to the fact that unions are often engaged in legal matters for the care of its members and its successful operations, the law firm of Cary Kane LLP mentions (in its website) the importance of having a legal counselor, who is highly-competitive in employment law, especially in matters concerning arbitration and unfair labor practice proceedings, dealing with governmental agencies, such as the DOL, litigation at the federal and state level, negotiating and managing collective bargaining agreements, and so forth.

Copyright Infringement and Illegal Downloads

Thousands of people download movies from legal peer-to-peer (P2P) sites like BitTorrent with impunity, but just because the hosting site is legal doesn’t mean that the files are not subject to copyright laws. If the movie is copyrighted and you download it, you can be sued for copyright infringement. This is something that numerous people all over the US are finding out to their dismay after they illegally downloaded the 2013 film “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Dallas Buyers Club LLC has already filed more than 1,000 lawsuits against individuals who were initially identified only by the internet protocol (IP) addresses, and whose identities were culled from internet service providers after being served with a subpoena. In many cases, the defendants settle between $2,000 and $5,000 rather than go to court, making for a pretty expensive movie that can be downloaded legally from sites like Amazon for less than $10.

However, when it comes to litigation, there are some issues with using the IP address to identify the culprit. For one thing, the internet service provider can only identify the person who pays the bill, who may or may not be the one doing the actual downloading, and who may or may not be aware of such activity. It is even possible, in this wireless age, for the actual culprit to be a neighbor piggybacking on the signal. This is clearly a challenge for Dallas intellectual property lawyers on both sides of the fence, as well as for lawyers outside Dallas, TX.

Copyright infringement through digital piracy is an ongoing problem with copyright owners, and even with increasingly sophisticated traceback capabilities, it is too easy for a case to fall apart if the defendant does not want to settle and mounts a viable defense. Moreover, the defendant may actually be perfectly innocent, so a lawsuit would have wasted the time and resources of both the plaintiff and defendant.

Finding the Best Nursing Home to Save Your Loved Ones from Abuses

There are about 16,000 nursing home facilities (15,465 of which are certified) in the United States that provide care to more than 3.3 million senior citizens and people needing rehabilitation. Despite this big number of facilities, it can be hard to find the right one for your aging parents or grandparents due to the widespread reports about nursing home abuse committed against elders.

A move by the federal government in coming up with a list of the best nursing home facilities in the US is a great help to many American families, making the search faster and a lot easier. When looking for a facility, families usually look for one that is accessible to the family, provides a supportive environment, is affordable and, most importantly, ensures the best care, especially to those with ailments. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, on the other hand, when rating a nursing home facility, bases its evaluation on factors, such as quality of care, number of certified nurses and nurse aids, and results of health inspections which are conducted by the state.

A five-star rating is the highest mark a good nursing home facility would earn and as of January 2013 about 3,036 nursing homes have been given this rate by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The actual number of facilities given a five-star rating and the specific states where these are located are Georgia (59 five-star nursing homes), Virginia (60), Connecticut (64), North Carolina (69), Kansas (78), Missouri (78), Minnesota (79), New Jersey (85), Indiana (87), Michigan (87), Wisconsin (100), Iowa (103), Massachusetts (111), New York (116), Texas (130), Ohio (137), Florida (141), Illinois (156), Pennsylvania (160), California (312).

The kinds of abuses suffered by nursing home residents are physical, emotional, sexual and financial. The usual perpetrators of the abuses are the facilities’ employees themselves, most of whom are overworked due to the number of elders they need to assist daily. Though overworked, the law does not give them any excuse, even warning them of a possible charge of felony if found guilty.

An injury that an elder cannot or refuses to explain about or a sudden change in a resident’s behavior can be signs that he/she is experiencing abuses from the hands of his/her caretaker or from other co-residents through the influence of caretakers. So many abuses remain unreported because the abused are not willing to talk. Being more sensitive to the changes in your loved one’s behavior or disposition will surely help bring to the open any cruel act committed against them.

If you believe that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, contact a nursing home abuse attorney today. They will be able to help guide you through the process as they have lots of experience in this area.

FELA – A Railroad Employee’s Protection against Erring Railroad Employers

The tremendous increase in the use of trains in transporting people and cargo between the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century also saw a great increase in the number of work-related accidents involving railroad workers.

It is the duty of railroad employers to make sure that their employees are provided with a place safe enough to work in. Besides state laws, there are also federal laws on the standards of safety that employers need to follow. In the case of railroad work, some of the safety standards include:

  • Proper job training of those hired
  • Tools and equipment needed to perform job should be in good working condition
  • Sufficient lighting in work area
  • Enough man-power to accomplish required work
  • Area of work is properly maintained and cleaned
  • Proper supervision of and in the workplace
  • Provision of safe walkways
  • All the train’s brakes (hand or manual brakes) should be without defects and in good working condition (including connecting pipes, air reservoirs and air hoses)
  • All and each of the parts of the locomotive should be safe for use and always working properly

If an injury is sustained by any employee during the course of his/her work, he/she is protected by Federal Employer’s Liability Act or FELA, giving him/her rights to file a claims lawsuit against the railroad employer for financial damages, like medical expenses, disability (partial or permanent) and wage loss.

FELA was passed by the US Congress in 1908 to solve the financial problems railroad employees (and their families) were put into in the event of employee injury or death. For the FELA claim to be valid, however, three important facts will have to be proven:

  • That the employee was injured during the performance of work
  • That the work area was not totally safe, the equipment and/or tools available for use were defective
  • The accident was a clear result of the unsafe work area or working condition

Understanding your rights as a railroad employee and knowing well what FELA stipulates are ways of ensuring that you never get to suffer financial troubles in case something goes wrong in the workplace.

Workplace Slip and Fall Accidents – Always a Liability of the Employer

Some people who would hear about a severe injury sustained from a simple case of slip and fall may refuse to believe that such thing is possible and may even think that such is a total non-sense. How will falling on your butt cause so much harm? It can definitely cause people to find the situation funny, but for it to cause a serious injury? Impossible!

To the more than two million victims of slip and fall accidents every year, however, this is far from being a joke. For it can result to fractures, causing severe pains, even impairment. The Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC knows this to be a fact, saying that most slip and falls are workplace accidents, causing the victims to miss work, the number of days depends on the severity of the injury sustained.

According to the CPSC, a slip and fall accident is the most common cause of injury in the workplace and hip fracture is the injury typically sustained by victims, whose ages usually fall between 15 and 24. The commission says further that the most common reasons why such accidents happen are exposed wires, slick or slippery floors, inadequate lighting, uneven steps or floors, unnoticeable slight elevations on floors, spills or wet floors, absence of warning signs or guardrails where these ought to be present and other forms of hazards that can cause a person to slip or trip.

Though the accident is usually blamed on the victims themselves, for failing to take notice of possible dangers or take extra care when walking, it is still the owner of the firm or establishment (if the accident happens outside the office) who has the greater responsibility over the cause of the accident.

It can be a case of negligence on the part of the owner or employer (and his/her representatives in the persons of managers and supervisors) in seeing to it that the workplace is always safe from possible accidents that could easily be avoided. Such negligence is also the usual cause of additional costs for the firm, which has to compensate the injured employee for medical treatment and wage loss if the accident causes the employee to miss work.

BP’s Claim Appeal: A Further Suffering for Many Business Firms

British Petroleum’s (BP) attempt to temporarily stop payouts in settlement of business loss claims gained grounds last July 2013, three years and three months after its oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico spilled 210,000,000 US gallons or 4.9 million barrels of oil into the sea. The spill, identified as the United State’s worst ecological disaster and the world’s biggest sea oil spill, wreaked havoc in marine life, affected people’s health and caused businesses to lose big money.

The past years have seen BP settling class claims from the government, business firms and individuals, paying more than $25 billion in total (including payment for clean up), thus far. But claims over the past year have only continued to pile up, and poor BP obviously has realized late that some of the payouts it has made were on fraudulent claims.

The sadder fact is, it has become obvious, through an investigation into fraudulent claims, that some lawyers have included clients as claimants despite the fact that the business losses these clients have suffered are in no way related to the oil spill.

The effect of the appeal is that those who really suffered losses due to the spill will not be paid yet and, due to the claim appeal that has been granted to BP, even those who were initially recognized as authentic claimants will now have to fight for their money.

Obviously, those really affected by the spill plus BP’s granted claim appeal are yet to suffer the worst effects of this marine disaster. Bankruptcy may not be a distant possibility too for some of these businesses which, until now are still struggling for recovery, especially those whose existence rely basically on marine life or on the sea itself (this includes sea food restaurants, yachting, boating and other sea-based businesses).

Immediately after the spill, BP resorted to an eligibility test to determine if a business making a claim has really suffered losses. Now, it has shifted to determining the real cause of losses to know if the claim made is really spill-related or not.

Oral Health Treatment – What Can Make it Go Wrong?

With more Americans becoming conscious of the vast importance of oral health and clean, white teeth, dentists are doing everything they can to live up to the challenge. Thus, aside from the usual tooth extractions they have always performed, they now also offer many other treatments and services, like  crowns and bridges, veneers, braces and orthodontia, teeth whitening (which is the number one obsession among Americans), and now, Neuromuscular dentistry, the latest development in oral healthcare. But, mind you, improvements in dental clinics are not confined solely on the number and quality performance of the latest services; these also include hiring professional and friendly staff and transforming their clinics into a more comfortable and conducive place to make patients feel more important and relaxed.

Like other medical professionals, dentists are obliged to observe standards of care to ensure quality treatment to all patients. Failure to observe these standards can result to patient harm or injury that can lead to a malpractice lawsuit against them and their staff. Dentists, therefore, ought to make sure that their patients know and understand the treatment to be performed and the possible immediate or long-tem effects of such treatment.

For it is a sad fact that complaints regarding dental malpractice have risen in the recent years, revealing how a number of dentists have not been careful in how they look after their patients. Though Prosthodontics, which refers to tooth replacement and which may involve extraction, as well as denture and bridge treatment, is the most common area of dentistry that is complained about, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Some of the other mistakes that can be committed by dentists, which injure patients, and result in malpractice lawsuits, include:

  • Insufficient or delayed treatment of oral problem
  • Wrong diagnosis of oral problem
  • Extractions and/or infection that lead/s to fracture of the jaw;
  • Failure to use correct dental equipment, leading to infection;
  • Damaging lingual nerve, whether temporary or permanent;
  • Causing infection due to marred dental bridges , root canals or implants; and,
  • Wrong dosage of anesthesia (this can actually lead to complications or death)

With regard to the possible injuries patients may suffer from due to such malpractice of negligence of the dentist, these can include: periodontal (gum) disease or advanced oral cancer; debilitating and increasing pain; injury to the nerves of the tongue, lips, jaw, chin or face; numbness; uncontrolled bleeding; teeth or gum injury due to faulty bridge or crown; stroke; and, heart attack.

School Hosts Televangelist-Sponsored Toy Drive; Receives Lawsuit Threat

A charter school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado recently received a letter from the American Humanist Association threatening a lawsuit for their involvement in a charity event sponsored by a Christian minister, and the moms are mad.

Operation Christmas Child, the charity event in question, is basically a toy drive. Families put gifts together in a shoebox so less privileged kids in third-world countries can have Christmas presents.

Although the event was not a school project, and no grades were based off of it, minister Franklin Graham sponsored the project. The drive was promoted by teachers and administration during school hours, and the school was officially affiliated with the project, according to the article.

The school ended their official affiliation with the event after receiving the letter, and mothers and their students decided to hold the event on the sidewalk a few blocks from the school in protest. They have allegedly received over 500 shoe boxes in one day.

However, even after the success of the drive, parents are still indignant. One mother even claims that the group was “bullied”.

Few could fault parents for encouraging their kids to give to the less fortunate. However, the violation of church and state is glaring. A charter school can’t host a charity event promoting a Christian holiday, which is funded by a Christian minister, on school property and promote it during school hours. It’s against the law to entangle church and state to that extent.

The fact that the group was able to give gifts to less fortunate children is commendable. They should hold the drive every year on the sidewalk. In fact, the religious leaders should sponsor as many drives as they can—so long as they’re kept off of school campuses.

New York City Train Derails, Killing Four

A commuter train traveling from Poughkeepsie to Manhattan derailed early yesterday morning, killing four passengers and injuring at least 65 more.

At the time of the accident, the train had initiated a sharp turn on tracks that run along the intersection of the Hudson and Harlem rivers. Trains travel at speeds of 70 mph on the straightaway leading up to this turn, but typically slow down to 30 mph to safely make it past the curve. The derailed train’s conductor claimed the brakes became unresponsive as the vehicle approached the turn, possibly being what caused the train to careen off the tracks.

The train line serves some 26,000 people on an average day. Thousands of New Yorkers have had their commutes disrupted by this train accident, which officials say will take about a week to clear up.

This is not the first time a train has malfunctioned along that stretch of track. In July of this year, a freight train derailed in the same area.

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