Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

November 21, 1997

CHARLES SHEKETOFF of Silverton, an attorney who's been a lobbying voice for poor people at the Oregon Legislature, has formed the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Launched with a $100,000 grant from the Stern Family Fund of Arlington, Va., Sheketoff said OCPP will "provide an independent source for rigorous research and analysis on how tax and budget policies affect low and moderate-income Oregonians."

OREGON'S POLICIES are under attack by an anti-tax, anti-government movement that has forged new laws which aim to dismantle the state's ability to adequately fund education, social services and public safety needs," Sheketoff added. "OCCP will work to ensure that there are adequate, stable and equitable sources of revenue to provide for the most needy residents of Oregon."

Formation of OCPP was hailed by Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling, a Democrat, who is a former state legislator. He said:

"THE NEED FOR THE OCPP has never been more clear. As Oregonians prepare to pursue meaningful tax reform in the years to come, they will need credible, timely, and hard-hitting information. The OCPP can play an important role in expanding the tax and fiscal policy debate in Oregon and help moderate and progressive leaders build support for sound public policies."

David Stern, president of the Stern Family Fund which dispensed the start-up grant for Sheketoff's endeavor, said of the OCPP:

"In an era of renewed concentration of political and economic power, this project can help progressive and community-based organizations articulate their interests and place alternative policies before the public and policy makers."

AMONG THOSE on the OCPP board of directors are Rich Peppers, political director for Oregon Public Employees Union, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union AFL-CIO; and Ellen Lowe, longtime lobbyist for the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, who was a leader in the 1996 ballot measure campaign to give minimum-wage workers a raise.

Sheketoff, a graduate of the University of Oregon Law School, has spent the last seven years as an attorney and lobbyist for low-income clients of legal aid programs and the Oregon Law Center.

"A GROWING TREND among employers," according to the New York Times, is "screening job applicants for possible hand and wrist injuries and checking for conditions that are collectively known as repetitive stress injuries."

The newspaper went on to report:

"These injuries can be caused by tasks that involve repetitive motions: using jackhammers, for example, or cutting meat, pitching baseballs or working on assembly lines. One repetitive stress disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, is a debilitating condition of the hand, arm and wrist that afflicts millions of people, including many who work at computers all day. At some businesses, company doctors conduct pre-employment examinations using electronic instruments to track nerve impulses in the hands and wrists of those who have been offered jobs. In many cases, companies are using the tests to place workers with a proclivity to develop repetitive stress injuries in lower-risk jobs. But some companies withdraw job offers altogether, lawyers for workers say.

"THE PRACTICE is raising several issues -- the most obvious being whether employers' use of the tests violates applicants' rights, especially under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1992. The tests have also been criticized as being inaccurate."

The New York Times quoted a lawyer for the federal Equal Opportunity Commission as saying that the tests are not illegal. "Employers can require physical examinations as long as they are conducted after an offer is made," the newspaper reported.

However, a number of rejected job applicants have filed lawsuits, claiming the tests are used to "screen out a class of individuals perceived to have disabilities," The Times reported.

The newspaper said that a lawyer for some rejected applicants reported that none of them subsequently developed carpal tunnel syndrome.

"What's next, genetic testing?" the lawyer asked.

HOW ABOUT starting off the workday with a mandatory cheer for the company? Apparently that's how they do it at Arkansas-headquartered Wal-Mart's 2,771 stores. Sounds like a scene out of George Orwell, who decades ago wrote "1984," a peek into what he saw as a totalitarian future. But at the only unionized Wal-Mart, which is in Canada near Detroit, Mich., it looks like the regimented company cheer will soon be swept out with the trash. Workers at a Wal-Mart in Windsor, Ontario, who are represented by the Steelworkers, rejected a contract offer from the world's largest retailer, Bloomberg News, a financial news service, reported. The workers apparently were not satisfied with the size of the pay increases contained in the offer. But one section negotiated by the union eliminates "the forced daily performance of the company cheer," Bloomberg News reported. When they finally get an acceptable offer, the Ontario Wal-Mart workers may want to cheer for the Steelworkers Union.

OREGON VOTERS approved the assisted-suicide Ballot Measure 16 in 1994. The 1997 Republican-controlled Legislature decided to come up with Measure 51, which would repeal #16, and referred it to the voters at the election held earlier this month. Voters soundly rejected #51, meaning they wanted assisted-suicide to be legal in Oregon. But immediately after the election, some Republican legislators talked of wanting a special session to again tinker with the voters' intent. Are those legislators trying to commit UN-assisted political suicide? One thing's sure: Legislators who think they can get away with once again overriding the voters are "fatally flawed," to borrow a phrase used by both sides in the #51 campaign.

BURT WELLS of Portland, retired secretary-treasurer of the Association of Western Pulp and Papers Workers, expressed concern to the NW Labor Press about the "big brother" tactics of employers who snoop on their workers. He called attention to a recent article on the subject in the Christian Science Monitor, a nationally-circulated newspaper published in Boston.

"As the quest for productivity grows more intense, surveillance -- human and computerized -- casts a spreading shadow over the American workplace," said the Monitor article, written by Marilyn Gardner. She cited the case of a woman letter carrier in New York State who was fired after 18 years because a supervisor said she walked with "baby steps," which the snoopervisor said added 13 minutes a day to her route. The Monitor writer also quoted an airline ticket agent who reported increased pressure to complete phone calls quicker.

"The temptation of technology," said the Monitor article, "is to reduce people to the status of machines and measure their worth accordingly. But as the mail carrier and the airline agent can both attest, the best way to get full efficiency from workers is to recognize the rich difference that favors a human being over a robot. That acknowledgment by corporate America will constitute one giant step in the right direction toward a less Orwellian future."


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.