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Said to be due to a reorganizing of the executive branch of government, the 5 advisory panels who counsel OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the Department of Labor on workplace safety and whistleblower protection have been shut down or put on hold. Even OSHA itself is significantly understaffed, said to only have enough inspectors to visit each job site once every 159 years.

The 5 committees, listed below, have not met in at least 9 months. Experts worry that the excuse of reorganizing the executive branch to increase efficiency is a cover for allowing businesses to avoid regulation that might hinder financial success. Further adding to their concerns is the number of committee members who have resigned or whose terms have expired without any attempt by the Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, to seek nominees or fill vacant positions. All of the committees’ membership positions will expire by the end of this year (if they haven’t already).

The 5 panels are:

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A 3-year-old boy and his parents were awarded $1.6 million after suing the apartment complex’s owner and  management company for failing to take care of a bedbug infestation that left their son with lifelong facial scars.

After moving into a California apartment, the boy’s mother noticed red spots all over his body and took him to the emergency room. The ER diagnosed the spots as bedbug bites. Soon after, the boy’s mother, Liliana Martinez, noticed both bedbugs and cockroaches in the family’s apartment, as well as bedbug bites all over her newborn daughter’s back.

Right after the diagnosis and discovery of bedbugs, Mrs. Martinez and her husband contacted the apartment’s management company, who sent a pest control company. They also advised the family to throw away all of their furniture. The family followed the company’s directive and were then forced to sleep on a spot of floor while chemicals covered their home. Ridding the home of their furniture and spraying for bugs did little to deter the notoriously stubborn pests, and the family continued to experience bites. The family repeatedly complained and after 4 months, the management company took out old carpeting and replaced it with new carpet. After ridding the home of the carpeting, the bedbug bites finally stopped.

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A study by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) found that Illinois is indeed a very good place to conduct business. Summarizing the findings in a recent fact sheet, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) reports that since a 2011 push to cut workers’ compensation payouts in Illinois, our state has done just that while padding the pockets of the insurance companies who should be paying these claims. The efforts to reform workers’ comp came as businesses put pressure on lawmakers to make our state more hospitable to businesses. Businesses and insurance companies are winning, while injured workers and the doctors who treat them are paying the price.

In a state-by-state analysis, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) found that Illinois

  1. Had the largest decrease in medical benefits paid out of any state
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The American Association of Justice (AAJ) has compiled a list of the 9 largest corporate scandals and coverups of the past year. Their report, titled “Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017,” outlines bad behavior on the part of United Airlines, Monsanto, Wall Street’s big banks, Wells Fargo, Fox News, Equifax, Johnson and Johnson, Takata, and McKesson.

AAJ is a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on preserving American’s right to a jury trial and ensuring the ability of those injured by others to pursue legal action in a court of law.

Below is their list of the unethical and illegal measures each of the 9 corporations or groups took to protect both their reputations and their profits, all at the expense of us, the consumer.

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Last month, an ABC News-Washington Post poll found 54% of women have been sexually harassed.

68% of those harassed said the harassment occurred at work, and a quarter of these women said their sexual harasser was a man who had influence over their career. 95% of those subjected to sexual harassment said they did not report the incident. In response to the poll, Forbes magazine called workplace sexual harassment a “full blown epidemic.”

Despite many companies touting human resources-developed policies about no tolerance workplaces and so-called encouragement to bring these situations forward, many women are fearful. Fearful of losing their job, becoming an outcast among peers, or being retaliated against by superiors. The list of worries could go on and on.  Maybe this explains why a sexual predator such as Harvey Weinstein was able to intimidate and terrorize even the most in-demand, bankable actresses in Hollywood since at least the 1980s. After all, even as children we’re taught that ‘no one likes a tattletale.’ Now that women are beginning to blow the lid off the frighteningly common occurrences of workplace sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape, we’re beginning to see that just maybe we women have created a big enough firestorm to finally convince corporate America that it’s time to make workplaces safe from sexual harassment and to bring harassers to justice.

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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.

Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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Last week, the mother of a non-verbal 7 year old boy with autism made public a sickening incident that happened while her son was in his first grade class at Thomas A. Hendricks Elementary Community Academy on Chicago’s south side. Holley Cornwell-Vaca received a call from the school’s principal that a substitute teacher’s aide had hit her son, Paulie, after the boy kicked the aide, but the principal wouldn’t say exactly when or where the incident took place. She was told that two aides were suspended because of the altercation, but she says she wasn’t told by the principal, but instead by the media. Ms. Cornwell-Vaca said the principal would only tell her that the incident had transpired and that it was being investigated. She told WGN that she would not allow her son to return to the school.

Teacher’s aides, also called paraprofessionals, can have a wide range of duties that include working individually with students who require more one-on-one support and remediation and supporting the teacher in all aspects of classroom teaching, student discipline, class preparation and even grading. Under no circumstances are teachers, classroom aides, or other paraprofessionals allowed to use physical abuse as a means of discipline or restraint.  According to the Illinois State Board of Education, paraprofessionals are required to be at least 19 years old and have either an Associate’s Degree, 60 semester hours of coursework (unspecified), a GED plus a score of 460 or higher on the ETS ParaPro test, or a GED with a score of 4 on both the ACT Work Keys Applied Mathematics test and the ACT Reading for Information test. They must also work under the supervision of a certified teacher. While many work with students with special needs, they are not certified as special needs educators, nor are they required to undergo specialized training to handle and respond to the specific needs of students with certain cognitive, behavioral, social or emotional conditions and diagnoses.

If you have a loved one that you suspect has been physically mistreated while a student at any educational institution, you should take action. Our schools are meant to be a safe environment where teaching and learning are conducted with mutual respect between students, teachers and other staff. Parents and guardians are an integral part of ensuring that our children’s education is a positive experience, and information should never be withheld by teachers and administrators, especially when a child is unable to personally communicate that something has happened.

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A St. Louis-based class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims their talc powders (officially called Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower) cause ovarian cancer has continuously revealed evidence that the company has been aware for years of the dangers of using the product. Late last month, a Johnson & Johnson training memo become public that revealed that the company knew that asbestos was present in their talc and told the medical community and employees that asbestos “has never been found and it never will.” This is a striking revelation, considering another document last month contained a 1974 recommendation from the Director of Research and Development at a Johnson & Johnson talc mine in Vermont that the company consider using citric acid to eliminate or lessen the presence of asbestos in the talc mined from the site. In the memo, the employee strongly recommended the use of citric acid  “to provide protection against what are currently considered to be materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.” Both documents were presented during an April deposition of Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Medical Officer, Joanne Waldstreicher.

A 1973 Johnson & Johnson report also said that they were working with federal officials at their Virginia mine to ensure that their talc was asbestos-free, because samples revealed trace amounts of asbestos fibers.

As part of the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson has submitted records of asbestos testing beginning in 1972. According to those records, no asbestos was ever found in their baby powder and a spokesperson says that their products have been tested by the FDA and independent researchers frequently over the years.

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It’s a misperception that just won’t go away: Today’s court system is bogged down by frivolous civil lawsuits. The truth is that more than 60% of lawsuits today are businesses suing other businesses or civilians and that civil lawsuits in Illinois fell 43% between 2010-2015. Civil lawsuits are those brought by an individual against another individual or business. This means the number of Americans suing anyone for being wronged is falling dramatically.

Exaggerations and Outright Lies

If you listen to the propaganda machine out there, you’d hear that civil lawsuits are at fault for raising our insurance premiums, driving doctors out of of the profession, and preventing our country from coming up with a reasonably-priced national insurance program that benefits most. You’d likely also hear that civilians and workers are costing businesses millions each year for injury and workers’ comp lawsuits, and that Americans in general have gone lawsuit crazy.

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After less than a day of deliberation, a Chicago jury awarded Tierney Darden $148 million for a shelter collapse outside O’Hare Airport that ripped her spinal cord in half, leaving her permanently paralyzed from the waist down and in constant pain.

In August 2015, Tierney, her mother, and sister had just returned to Chicago after traveling to Minneapolis to pick out a wedding dress for her sister. The three were waiting outside O’Hare under one of several pedestrian shelters found at the airport. A storm caused the shelter to suddenly collapse, trapping Tierney, now 26. After the accident, CBS 2 investigators found corroded parts and missing bolts and screws in not only the shelter that collapsed, but in nearly all others. The discovery and exposure forced O’Hare to remove all pedestrian shelters.

Tierney, a former dancer at Truman College, told CBS 2 of the accident “I hate it. I hate that I have to wake up every day and see it.”