The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) just released a report showing that public library workers in Saskatchewan, including at Southeast Regional Library (Weyburn), face increasing levels of verbal abuse, violence and harassment in their workplace.
The report was initiated in response to a growing number of violent incidents occurring in Saskatchewan public libraries.
A total of 101 public library workers participated in CUPE’s Workplace, Violence and Harassment online survey. The anonymous survey was carried out from June 29th, 2022 to September 9th, 2022.
Of those that responded, 78% reported that they have experienced verbal abuse (yelling, swearing, racist comments, offensive remarks) in their workplace, 44% reported experiencing some sexual harassment, 50% reported experiencing workplace violence, and 40% of respondents said that they have been threatened by physical harm while at work.
Most respondents reported that workplace violence has increased over the last two years. Only 30% of respondents said that there was a violence prevention program at their workplace.
The report stated that, “When workplace violence is not treated seriously or not addressed appropriately, the situation could become even more dire, as evidenced in the tragic murder of a patron at the Millennium Library in Winnipeg in December 2022.”
Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan, said, ”What we’re hoping is that we have legislation that addresses violence in the workplace. We do know that Bill 91 that is at the legislature right now, will probably be passed this spring. It actually expands on the violence in the workplace legislation, where all workplaces have to have a policy. They need to get to the table to try to resolve and address it.”
Library patrons/members of the public are cited in the survey as those most responsible for the verbal abuse, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. Respondents said that mental health and addictions were the most common reasons for increased workplace violence.
Henley stated that since the pandemic, mental illness has increased substantially. “Addictions are on the rise and homelessness is on the rise, and libraries are a public place and people with mental illness as well as addictions and homelessness, do utilize libraries, because that’s the only place that they can get some of the resources that they may need.”
In terms of possible solutions, 44 respondents suggested better training for staff, particularly on de-escalation and dealing with mental health challenges, supportive managers, additional library staff, zero tolerance for violence, and social workers at some branches.
Respondents to the survey cited bathroom checks as one reason for increased workplace violence.
Lori Johb, President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said that during the pandemic, many centres did not have access to public washrooms. “Pre-COVID they had washrooms that were designated for people that needed them that might not have a regular place to go. So public libraries that were open were seen as a safe place where they would be able to access a washroom. I think that brings them into the building and that’s where things go from there.”
She said that understaffing and shortages in libraries are problems as well, and adequate staff would help people to work safely.
Johb added that we need to not only make it into law that every workplace has a workplace violence policy, but there needs to be follow-up and ensuring that it’s an effective policy and that employees are aware of it and know where to find it.
Discover Weyburn reached out to the Southeast Regional Library, but they declined to comment.
The annual US report 2022 on human rights practices across the world has flagged “significant human rights issues” in India that includes “targeting of religious minorities”, “gender-based violence”, “persecution of journalists” and “restrictions on freedom of expression” among others.
Published on Monday, the US State Department report mentioned “lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, child, early, and forced marriage, femicide, and other forms of such violence,” and stated that “a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government”, is contributing to widespread impunity. “Lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to a low number of convictions.”
The US State Department cited Supreme Court-panel report terming the encounter of four accused in the 2019 Telangana gangrape-and-murder case “fake”, and said, “There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and terrorists.”
The report listed out torture and other inhuman treatment stating there were “credible reports” that confirm that government officials employed them despite the country’s law saying otherwise. “The law does not permit authorities to admit coerced confessions into evidence, but some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported authorities used torture to coerce confessions. Authorities allegedly also used torture to extort money or as summary punishment,” the US State Department report stated.
It also pointed out overcrowding in prisons terming the conditions of jail as “life threatening”, due inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of medical care.
The department mentioned about reports of “arbitrary arrests” under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) and stated that the judicial system of India remained “seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often leading to delaying or denying justice”. Citing journalist Siddique Kappan’s case, the report said although Kappan was granted bail by the Supreme Court in a UAPA case two after his arrest in 2020, activist Atikur Rahman — who was also arrested along with him during their travel to Hathras following a Dalit woman rape case — continued to be in custody till of the end of the year despite reports of severe medical conditions.
The report also mentioned about violence in conflict areas and said its intensity however “continued to decline”. “The country’s armed forces, the security forces of individual states, and paramilitary forces engaged with terrorist groups in several northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, and with Maoist terrorists in the northern, central, and eastern parts of the country. The intensity of violence in these areas continued to decline. The army and security forces remained stationed in the northeastern states, Jharkhand, and Bihar. The armed forces and police also engaged with terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir,” it said.
More Than 80 Percent of Employees Think Their Physical Safety is Important, New Report Shows
The report, The State of Employee Safety in 2023, also looks at different aspects of worker health and safety, including mental health and emergencies.
By Alex Saurman
Mar 22, 2023
A new report provides insights into employee thoughts on safety in the workplace.
The report, The State of Employee Safety in 2023, from Alert Media looks at data from more than 2,000 surveyed workers, all of whom are employed full-time and work in the U.S. It covers a multitude of topics relating to worker health and safety, including physical health, mental health and wellbeing and work emergencies.
Physical and Mental Health
More than four in five respondents (81 percent) said their physical safety is important, according to the report. That’s more than the percentage of people who found productivity (65 percent) and level of satisfaction at work important (65 percent).
But not as many respondents think their employer finds physical safety important—only 58 percent reported this, and only 49 percent said their employer finds the level of satisfaction with work important. Instead, 79 percent said their employer values productivity.
Moreover, when asked about the importance of mental health, 77 percent said their mental health is “extremely important,” but only 45 percent believe their employer thinks this as well.
The report also found that almost half of the respondents “think the world is more dangerous today than it was previously.” Employees were most concerned that public health emergencies (45 percent), workplace violence (34 percent) and technology failure (29 percent) would occur at work.
When it comes to preparing for emergencies, training is of the utmost importance. Those who receive training more frequently (“once every month or two” compared to “once per year” or “never”) said they “feel more prepared.” Even if training only occurred once every year, more employees felt prepared than those who received no training.
Nurses from around Ohio gathered at the Statehouse to advocate for legislation that they say will improve patient care. Their top priority is a bill that would mandate staffing ratios statewide.
Columbus nurse Greg Goodman said his hospital’s contract with the union that represents him and other nurses spells out negotiated ratios that were implemented to make sure individual nurses don’t have more patients than they can handle. But he said that’s not the case statewide. And he said that’s a problem.
“You have one hospital that has this staffing ratio, another hospital that has that staffing ratio. Different units have different staffing ratios and that’s unsafe,” Goodman said. “As a patient you can say, ‘well, I want to go to that hospital because they are a union hospital and they have staffing ratios so I want to go to that hospital.’ It would be great if we had a state law that put us all on one level playing field.”
The nurses said inadequate staffing puts them in danger of being a victim of workplace violence. Elizabeth Thirtyacre, a Columbus area nurse, explained sensible staffing ratios are the key to improving patient care and reducing workplace mistakes or violence.
“If we can’t adequately care for patients, because that’s what we show up to do everyday, because our hands are tied, we don’t have adequate staffing, we are getting beaten up at work, etc., then it’s really not just nurses that are suffering but it’s the public health of Ohio,” Thirtyacre said.
No bill has been introduced this year that would mandate such staffing levels, but the nurses said they are hoping they can change that. There have been bills in the past that mandate staffing numbers but they failed to pass.
The nurses said they are open to working with Ohio lawmakers to come up with legislation that is based on research and evidence that has been proven to be successful.
The Anamosa State Penitentiary in Anamosa in 2004. (The Gazette)
ANAMOSA — An amended lawsuit filed by the parents of a nurse killed by two Anamosa prison inmates in 2021 contends prison officials had been previously warned about issues with safety radios not working, understaffing of correction officers, attempted escapes and prison nurses being held hostage.
Prison employees and inmates had warned defendants — Anamosa State Penitentiary, Iowa Department of Corrections, Iowa Prison Industries and former Warden Jeremy Larson — that conditions in the prison were unsafe, according to the amended lawsuit filed last week.
The safety radios didn’t work properly, the prison was understaffed, including in the infirmary, and there were not enough employees to respond in case of emergencies.
The wrongful death lawsuit, originally filed last year, also states in the amended petition that prison nurses previously had been held hostage and/or attacked by inmates in the infirmary, similar to what happened March 23, 2021. That day, Lorena Schulte, 50, of Cedar Rapids, and correctional officer Robert McFarland, 46, of Ely, were attacked by Thomas Woodward and Michael Dutcher with hammers they accessed without being supervised.
Schulte sustained blunt force head injuries and died as a result of the attack, according to the lawsuit filed by her parents, Stephanie and George Schulte, in Jones County District Court.
Schulte had a laceration to her right upper eyelid with underlying skull fractures, bleeding in her brain and blunt force injuries to her chest, left shoulder and right leg, according to the autopsy report attached to the lawsuit.
A prison dental assistant, Lori Mathes, and another inmate, McKinley Roby, also were injured during the attack.
Woodward, 34, and Dutcher, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, one count each of attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping. They were each sentenced to life in prison without parole.
According to the amended lawsuit, Woodward and/or Dutcher were unsupervised when they entered the storage area of the prison where the hammers and other tools were kept, which is in violation of prison policy. The inmates were not required to check out the hammers from the storage area and were not checked for weapons when they left the area.
The two inmates also were unsupervised when they came into the prison infirmary with weapons, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states prison and state officials knew these safety violations were in “dereliction of their duties” to set up appropriate safety policies and procedures regarding tool control, camera systems, communication systems, workplace violence prevention and security inspections.
The officials knew some of these issues violated Iowa’s Occupational Safety and Health Act, including those that could likely cause death and serious physical harm to employees because the prison had previously been cited for OSHA violations related to these failures, according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants knew that these safety violations made it probable that an employee would be injur(ed) or killed,” the suit states. “Defendants consciously failed to take any action to rectify these issues and exhibited willful and wanton disregard for the safety of employees and inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.”
The lawsuit also contends Larson’s gross negligence caused this incident because he failed to take appropriate safety measures to prevent inmates from accessing tools without supervision.
After the attack, Larson was reassigned to another Corrections Department role. The Iowa Legislature also approved $20 million in additional money for the Corrections Department, with a large share to be used to fill vacancies.
After the attack, the department hired a consultant to launch a seven-month security review of Iowa’s prison system. While the majority of the report was never released to the public, a summary showed crowding and challenges in recruiting and retaining staff create potential security risks in Iowa’s nine prisons.
The consultant also said the Corrections Department needs to develop a better screening process to match offenders’ behavior history and characteristics to their work assignments, finding different prisons had different protocols for inmates to access tools and chemicals.
On Oct. 22, a man with a lengthy criminal record walked into Methodist Dallas Medical Center wearing an ankle monitor and, unbeknownst to hospital staff, a handgun. He was granted permission to visit the hospital to see his girlfriend give birth. The man allegedly got into an argument with and assaulted his girlfriend and later shot and killed a hospital nurse and social worker before being wounded by a Methodist police officer and surrendering.
Less than a month later, a Texas medical examiner was shot and killed in her Dallas office by her estranged husband, who then turned the gun on himself. It is believed he entered through an employee entrance, as the public does not have access to the building.
These two incidents, just weeks apart, add to the growing tally of shootings in healthcare settings. On June 1, a man shot four people in a Tulsa hospital, three of whom were hospital staff. On that same day in Ohio, a county jail inmate disarmed a security guard in a Dayton hospital, shot and killed the guard, pointed the gun at bystanders, and then killed himself.
Working in healthcare comes with its risks. According to the American Nurses Association, one in four nurses is assaulted on the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that healthcare workers and those who work in social services are five times more likely to experience violence in the workplace than other workers. It’s a problem that has been around for a while; my mother, who was working at the state hospital in Austin, had her nose broken when she was punched in the face by a patient while she was pregnant with me.
But the issue seems to be getting worse. The American Hospital Association says that 44 percent of nurses experienced physical violence, and 68 percent experienced verbal abuse during the pandemic. Given the rise of violence in the workplace in healthcare settings, one might expect these facilities to be as secure as a sporting event or airport, with metal detectors at every entrance, guests and staff asked to empty their pockets while being searched, and visible security forces throughout the facility.
But herein lies the growing tension in healthcare, especially around hospital operations and design. Healthcare leaders don’t want their facilities to feel like locked-down institutions. Walking into a new hospital these days is more likely to feel like entering the lobby of a luxury hotel with engaging art, attractive light fixtures, natural light, and multiple seating areas. A metal detector, security guard with a wand, or other deterrents might ruin the ambiance medical centers want to exude.
“Hospitals are worried about queuing and don’t want people waiting in line,” says Marilyn Hollier, a consultant at Security Risk Management Consultants. “They want to balance security, patient care, and accessibility. We can lead them to the water, but it’s up to them if they drink.”
If you talk to hospital leaders, they’ll say safety for patients and staff is a top priority. So, how do they square the circle? “We do everything we can to make the hospital as welcoming as possible, not only for the patients but their families,” says Steve Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “It is hard to balance that because you want to make it safe for the patient, families, and the hospital staff.”
During the height of the pandemic, visitation was limited, which helped with security. But providers know that social interaction and the presence of friends and family are essential to recovery, and they don’t want to return to zero visitors. Instead, hospitals are adding training on preparedness, increasing the number of security guards and safety drills, and upgrading technology and cameras to help identify threats before they happen. “The improvements that we made are a result of that ongoing vigilance, learning, and priority to keep our patients and our care team safe,” says Winjie Tang Miao, senior executive VP and COO of Texas Health Resources.
The people and systems in charge of hospital security are as important as the tech, experts say. Many hospital systems will hire a former chief of police to help keep facilities secure, but the nature of hospitals makes their protection much more than a retirement job. Hospitals haven’t been designed with security as a priority, so their open layouts, multiple entrances, and mix of guests, employees, vendors, and staff make them increasingly difficult to secure. Hospital security consultants talk about concentric circles of security that include relationships with the local law enforcement and corrections departments, having one’s own identification program in place, and required visitor passes for sensitive areas.
Designing facilities with security in mind, increasing the number of risk assessments, creating effective violence reporting mechanisms for employees, and hiring leadership with specific healthcare security certification are all strategies that can put hospitals ahead, says Tom Smith, president and principal consultant of Healthcare Security Consultants. But enhancements aren’t cheap. “You must decide what’s reasonable. The latest and greatest MRI machine or two or three more police or security in our emergency department,” he says. “I’m not saying it’s easy. But you want to evaluate the risks.”
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Will is the senior editor for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He’s written about healthcare…
When Ingrid Vilorio tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2021, she wasn’t worried about her symptoms or even ending up in the hospital. She was worried she wouldn’t be able to make rent.
Vilorio works at a Jack in the Box near her home in Hayward, California. When she told her manager she was sick, her manager told Vilorio that she wouldn’t be paid for any of the days she missed. So, eight days later, Vilorio went back to work. “They needed me to come back, and I needed to pay my bills,” Vilorio said in Spanish during a recent interview.
Until one of her coworkers told her, Vilorio didn’t know that, under California law, she was entitled to sick pay for the days she missed. And with a son at home, she needed that pay. So, with the help of the workers’ rights group Fight for $15, she and a group of her coworkers went on strike, demanding not only the sick pay they were entitled to, but also basic health safeguards like hand sanitizer and masks. “I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t want to have problems with my employer.”
After five months, the restaurant’s management finally agreed to pay Vilorio for the eight sick days. She was frustrated by the fact it took going on strike to receive the money she was owed.
Jack in the Box did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did any other fast-food restaurant mentioned in this story.
“Wage theft is really rampant in the fast-food industry, as are health and safety hazards,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center. Jacobs also points out that Vilorio fits the core demographic of fast-food workers in California: Two-thirds are women, and 60 percent are Latin American.
Recent state-level legislation, A.B. 257 or the FAST Recovery Act, aimed to protect workers like Vilorio by convening a council made up of workers and corporate and franchise representatives to “establish sector-wide minimum standards on wages, working hours, and other working conditions related to the health, safety, and welfare” of fast-food workers.
“In an industry where it’s very hard for workers to unionize because of the franchise model, it creates a way in which workers can have a collective voice in the process of setting the standards in their industry,” said Jacobs.
The bill passed the California Assembly last January and Governor Gavin Newsom signed the measure on Labor Day. However, in December — just a month before the law was set to go into effect — it was put on hold. A coalition led by the International Franchise Association (IFA), a group whose members include McDonald’s and Arby’s, announced it had collected enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot in the next election (despite recent allegations that voters were misled by signature-gatherers telling them they were helping to raise wages for fast-food workers).
“Fortunately, now more than 1 million Californians have spoken out to prevent this misguided policy from driving food prices higher and destroying local businesses and the jobs they create,” said IFA President and CEO Matt Haller in a statement in late January. IFA did not answer specific questions about their opposition to the bill nor the allegations of fraudulent petitioners.
The passage of the FAST Recovery Act was seen as a watershed moment for workers who have long been striking and demanding better pay. Now, all eyes are on the battle in California at a time when fast-food workers around the nation still work for minimum wage and the federal tipped minimum wage — the rate tipped workers are paid in addition to tips — is $2.13. Industry experts say similar legislation could pass in other states with Democratic legislatures and governors, like New York and Michigan.
Upset But Unsurprised
Jimmy Perez, a Papa John’s employee in Los Angeles, doesn’t buy the argument that the FAST Recovery Act would destroy local business.
“That’s just fear-mongering,” he said. Instead, he thinks corporations don’t want to give their workers any seats at the bargaining table. “They want to just turn it off and put it out like a cigarette. We’ve worked hard to get to this point to have a seat finally, and now they want to shut it down, which is very frustrating.”
During the pandemic, Perez said he and his colleagues faced increasingly unsafe working conditions, mostly due to irate customers. “I’ve had objects thrown at me before. Our drivers have been robbed at gunpoint or threatened with weapons,” he said.
According to a 2022 report from the UCLA Labor Center, nearly half of fast-food workers experienced verbal abuse in the workplace and more than a third experienced violence.
“There’s been a crisis of workplace violence, which was exacerbated by COVID,” said Jacobs, who contributed to the UCLA report. “During COVID, there were a lot of customers who were unhappy about masking and the enforcement fell to workers.”
Perez said when he brings up safety concerns to his managers, nothing is done about it, and that has led to a lot of turnover and empty positions at his workplace. “We’re doing the jobs of two people, three people. So, that causes more stress on us, which then creates more errors at work, which then creates more irate customers and an increased chance of violence. It’s a domino effect.”
The council established by the FAST Recovery Act would consist of a balanced roster of fast-food workers, worker representatives, franchisors, and franchisees, as well as two representatives of the governor’s administration. Any proposal would need six votes to go forward.
One of the potential proposals Perez is most excited about — should A.B. 257 ultimately go into effect — is a minimum wage hike. “We got single mothers working here. We got kids trying to get through college. We need this money,” he said.
The council would have the authority to raise the minimum hourly wage to $22. Right now, Perez makes $16 an hour, which he said is barely enough to survive in Los Angeles. A wage increase would give him some financial wiggle room and also dignify the job he feels proud to do.
“For many of us, it’s not just a job. It’s doing what we love. Many of us, it’s our passion and our craft,” he said. “Like a city worker or a government worker, we want that level of respect.” A higher wage, he said, would command a higher level of respect.
For Jack Slavsky-Fode, who works at an Arby’s in Hollywood, a higher wage would mean being able to get a place of his own. The 20-year-old currently lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his mom. “I still can’t even afford a studio apartment here,” he said.
But, for Slavsky-Fode, it’s not just about the potential wage increase. It’s also about giving workers like him a seat at the table. “That way we could actually open up a line of communication so we can talk about these problems and discuss how we can actually fix this,” he said, referring to issues like verbal and sexual harassment and discrimination.
Slavsky-Fode said he’s one of the rare fast-food workers who has had a generally positive experience. His manager is supportive and he feels respected.
“I am very thankful to be working with that crew, because you hear how often somebody gets discriminated against based on their race or their gender or their orientation, and you hear how often they have to deal with horrible customers and all that.”
While he’s upset the law didn’t go into effect on January 1, he’s not surprised. “Knowing how much power and control a lot of fast-food corporations have, I’m not surprised,” he said. “It’s disheartening, but it ain’t going to stop us.”
The Fight Forward
Now, with the fate of the FAST Recovery Act in the hands of California voters, fast-food workers and labor unions are preparing for a fight leading up to the 2024 election. Food-focused labor unions have won myriad rights and benefits for workers in the past, including higher wages and even access to healthcare.
“I believe the power of the workers and the voice of the people is our competitive advantage,” said Tia Orr, executive director of California’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which pushed for the legislation. “I think workers are coming together in ways that we haven’t seen in a while. I mean, you see the support for unions and workers growing day by day.”
In recent weeks, SEIU has also supported new legislation aimed at holding corporate franchisors jointly liable for franchisee violations. Dubbed the Fast-Food Corporate Franchisor Responsibility Act, the act was authored by California Assembly Member Chris Holden, who also authored the FAST Recovery Act.
“This bill will destroy tens of thousands of local restaurants by eliminating the equity they have built over decades of franchise small business ownership,” said IFA president Matthew Haller in a statement.
Another recent bill, authored by state senator Monique Limón, would change a current California law that requires fast-food workers to pay for a mandatory food-safety training, instead requiring employers to pay for the training and the workers’ time for completing the training. A recent investigation from the New York Times revealed the company offering the training course is closely associated with the National Restaurant Association, which has spent decades lobbying against raising the tipped minimum wage.
Orr is also looking at how to reform California’s referendum process, which she said is being abused by corporations with deep pockets. “We want to be sure that we’re not circumventing our democracy through a referendum process, but we’re actually encouraging it and we’re being honest and truthful and not deceitful in our behavior as we try to overturn laws in the state of California,” she said.
But Orr hasn’t given up hope on the FAST Recovery Act. She urges Californians to vote in next year’s election with fast-food workers in mind. “It’s time for us to stand up to corporate power,” she said. “We won’t be deceived into believing something is hurtful to workers when it actually is beneficial to workers.”
The legislation has already had ripple effects outside of California, with copycat bills cropping up in states including Virginia and New York. Arby’s worker Slavsky-Fode hopes the fight will also ripple out to other industries.
“Once we get this for fast-food workers, we can also get this for retail workers. And then everybody … That’s how progress works,” he said.
Over the past year, Jack in the Box worker Vilorio has gone on strike, made several trips to Sacramento to press legislators to back the bill, and has even slept on the steps of the Capitol building, demanding attention. Her motivation to keep up the fight is simple: She wants to spend more time with her son, whom she rarely gets to see while he’s awake.
“Many of us don’t have enough time to dedicate to our kids because we’re working multiple jobs,” she said. “This bill would give us the opportunity to spend a little bit more time with them.”