Monthly Archives: August 2013

Remembering the 1963 March on Washington – MLK’s Dream for Racial Justice

Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech
August 28th, 1963

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) Update to Protect Mass. Workers

Via With a construction boom taking place in Boston, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) release of a long-delayed rule that would shield workers from excessive exposure to silica dust on the job is a long overdue step forward to protect construction workers and many other workers who are exposed to the material on a regular basis, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) said today.

The inhalation of fine silica dust can lead to severe lung diseases characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin). Workers can be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust through cutting, drilling, grinding, or otherwise disturbing material that might contain silica, such as in construction and mining work.

“Too many workers have suffered life-threatening illnesses, waiting for a silica standard to be issued,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, MassCOSH Executive Director. “With new construction taking place, such as the resumed work at the old Filene’s Department Store site, the timing of this rule is a welcome and critical step forward toward in finally protecting hundreds of thousands of from entirely preventable silica-related disease.”

The rule is divided into two standards – one for general industry and maritime, and one for construction. The rule lowers the legal limit of silica dust that workers are permitted to breathe to 50 micrograms of respirable silica per cubic meter of air, and for construction workers, suggests specific control methods, such as wet cutting and ventilation in certain situations.

OSHA estimates that about 2.2 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica dust nearly 1.85 million of whom are in the construction industry. In addition to causing the lung disease silicosis, studies also have found a strong association between silica exposure and lung cancer, kidney disease and autoimmune system disorders.

OSHA estimates that the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year, once the full effects of the rule are realized.

OSHA has been trying to strengthen rules limiting workers’ exposure to silica since the 1980s, but has been stymied by industry opposition. Its current proposal had been mired in bureaucratic limbo since 2000. Most recently, it was stuck at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for more than two and a half years, despite the agency’s deadline to review the rule within 90 days.

The proposed rule also includes provisions for measuring how much silica workers are exposed to, limiting workers’ access to areas where silica exposures are high, using effective methods for reducing exposures, providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures, and training for workers about silica-related hazards and how to limit exposure.

“Exposure to dust containing silica is one of the oldest known causes of work-related lung disease and the recognition of respiratory problems from breathing in dust even dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans,” said MassCOSH Membership and Communications Coordinator Jeff Newton. “In the U.S. efforts to protect workers began in the early 1900s and in 1938, Francis Perkins, then U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Roosevelt administration, convened a National Conference to Stop Silicosis. We are glad to see that protections are following science that found current silica exposure standards to be subpar and dangerous,” said Newton.Image

An Inspiring Flashmob to Raise Awareness of the Welfare System

OWLL – On With Living and Learning Inc. is a transformational verbatim theatre organization which inspires public dialogue about prison reform. 

Check out there flashmob that comments on the welfare system for women post-incarceration.

A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity

Via MassBudget: 

Well-Educated Workers = High-Wage Economy 

We have long known that a high-quality education is vital to helping children reach their full potential. A new paper from MassBudget and EPI documents the strong connection between a well-educated workforce and a prosperous state economy.     Image

A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity finds that states with better-educated workers have economies that create higher-paying jobs. In fact, in those states with the best-educated workers median wages are roughly 30% higher than in states with less-educated workers. Since 1979, the share of Massachusetts workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher has more than doubled, and over those same years state-wide wages have increased significantly.    

Looking at other ways states have tried to strengthen their economies, A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity also finds that lowering tax rates does not seem to help states generate high-wage jobs. There is essentially no correlation between the overall level of taxation in a state and its average wages.  

As part of our ongoing effort to reach new audiences, we would like to encourage you to share our Facebook post with friends and retweet messages from our Twitter feed

A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity is co-authored by Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and Peter Fisher, research director at the Iowa Policy Project. 

The Sierra Club asks, “Do Green Schools Matter?”

“Campuses are more focused on sustainability than ever. But what happens when students graduate?”


(photo from


Via FoodTank: 118 Twitter Feeds Every Food Activist Needs to Follow

“For anyone interested in changing the food system today, Twitter has proven to be a valuable tool for getting updated on current events, taking inspiration from individuals and organizations in the field, and simply gaining publicity. With an estimated 200 million active users sending out a collective 400 million Tweets per day, it’s an effective and engaging forum for food movement activists – eaters, farmers, writers, and researchers all over the world.”


The Current Conditions of Poverty

“…..four out of five Americans are now in danger of falling into poverty.” (by Callie Crossley)

Labor Unions & Work Centers

“First they came for the progressives. But there were lots of progressives, so I said nothing.

Then they came for the unions. And I was not a union, so I said nothing.

Then they came for the worker centers – and it started getting a little close to home.”


The anti-worker sentiment from groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is nothing new for us. We have stood against the Chamber before, and we will do it again.

But this latest attack, from a group called the Center for Union Facts, is targeting worker centers – and has a flashy new website to prove it. The website,, claims that worker centers are just front groups for labor unions, and tries to get people to report worker centers for “harassing or attacking employees.” The group is armed with a mighty budget – north of $3.2 million – and has taken out ads in the Wall Street Journal.

It is outrageous that these deep-pocketed fear mongers try to cast employees of worker centers as greedy, old-time union bosses trying to steal the hard-earned wages of workers.Image

In reality, worker centers are community-based organizations that organize and support low-wage workers who are not members of a union and are experiencing labor abuses. Most worker centers focus on immigrant workers. And the equally hard-working employees of worker centers are not exactly raking in huge salaries (please note the sarcasm – worker center employees are low-wage themselves).


As you and I both know, worker centers have reformed countless workplaces to help workers. They have fought and are continuing to push for livable wages and safe jobs for millions of Americans across the country.


The misguided website calls out our allies at ARISE, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), and OUR Walmart – not to mention Fast Food Forward, which is leading the multi-city fast food strikes in an effort to increase the minimum wage; Hotel Workers Rising, and the Retail Action Project, among other organizations.


Please stand with us in supporting the work of our allies at worker centers across the country. To start with, help us to shed light on the anti-worker PR campaign attempting to discredit and disassemble worker centers. Then, share your stories about how worker centers have helped – whether it’s you personally, someone you know, an organization you work with, or anything else.


Help us counter the PR onslaught and change the message to the good work that these organizations are doing. Hey, why not take advantage of this moment in the spotlight, right?