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Week in Review: Oct. 17–22, 2021

Oct. 22, 2021
Shining a spotlight on safety-related news.

This week has been an exciting one, at least for us editors of EHS Today.

We have announced five of the 10 winners of the America’s Safest Companies of 2021; the remaining will be announced next week. Programs like these are an opportunity to share the great work you are doing. You can read the profiles at www.ehstoday.com/americas-safest-companies-awards.

In addition to profiling the winners in our print magazine and on our website, there will be an award ceremony during the Safety Leadership Conference being held November 9-11 in Cleveland, Ohio.

We’re excited to gather once again for an impressive e lineup of speakers, exhibitors, plant tours, workshops and, most importantly meeting some of you. If you haven’t already registered, there’s still time to reserve your spot. More information can be found at www.safetyleadershipconference.com.

We hope you continue to stay safe and be well.

Unions Push Back on Vaccine Mandates

Ever since President Joe Biden’s primetime address in early September, we’ve all been trying to make sense of the vaccine mandate. Now, unions have stepped into the fray.

Specifically, they are challenging workers’ right to apply for an exemption to vaccine requirements on disability-related or religious grounds and potential termination.

This issue will likely cause more confusion, outrage and headaches as time draws closer to the administration’s Dec. 8 deadline for federal contractors to be fully vaccinated. We’ll continue to monitor the story.

Here’s the latest news.

The Woman Behind the Headlines

Jennifer Bates got a new job back in March 2020 when a company set up shop in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. You may not know Bates, but you know her story.

She was one of the employees pushing to unionize at Amazon’s Bessemer plant. She testified virtually before the Senate Budget Committee in March 2021 about the working conditions. A month later, the vote to unionize failed, though that’s been called into question because of alleged illegal misconduct by Amazon.

Bates continues to report to work, though she says when her badge temporarily doesn’t scan, she thinks, “Well, today’s the day they got me.”

While many shops are unionized, we don’t hear as many efforts to unionize—and it’s not every day that workers at one of the nation’s largest employers make the attempt. Naturally, that caught people’s attention.

But, as this article does, it’s important to consider the role unions have had in our nation’s labor market and their influence going forward.

Read the full article here.

A Closer Look at Diversity Efforts

We missed this article from our sister publication IndustryWeek when it was first published, but it was brought to our attention for winning a Folio award, a premiere journalism competition.

This piece offers an in-depth look at what steps manufacturers are taking to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

We acknowledge that the topic, which seeks to incorporate perspectives from a greater number of people, can sometimes create controversy. But still, we must acknowledge the importance of employees feeling safe at work, which can include having workers feeling comfortable enough to be themselves or share about their lives.

Author Laura Putre seamlessly incorporates many examples and experts who can explain the issue in broad strokes and great detail, but there was one comment that stuck out:

“Every manufacturing environment I’ve ever worked in has a safety moment, which is great,” says Michael Bach, author of the book Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. “Safety is so critically important. Why don’t we have a diversity moment, which is the perfect educational opportunity to say, ‘I, as an individual, I’m going to share a story about my life, something that is part of my identity.’ And then as a group, you talk about how [the group] can be more inclusive.

“There are always going to be issues with racism and sexism and homophobia. But if you’re calling it out, if you’re setting a tone, the issues start to decrease. If you don’t do it, the issue will just continue.”

We encourage you to read the full article, look at what your employer is doing and consider broaching the subject with your colleagues.

Read the full article here.  

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