Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ridiculous rationales against the Healthy Workplace Bill

SHRM opposes anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

The advocacy group for Human Resources (HR) issued an alert for SHRM members in June 2010 to oppose the NY versions of the HWB. In brief, Bob Carragher, SHRM’s manager of government relations (chief national lobbyist) and Susan Corcoran, NY state legislative director (state lobbyist) claim our legislation is “bad for business and bad for New York.” The two issued a “Talking Points” memo related to the bills that fell into our hands. Here is the text verbatim with WBI counterpoint in italics:

Human resource professionals, by the very nature of their positions, are dedicated to advocating for the interests of all employees in their organizations.

[Not true. HR is a management support function and acts accordingly. HR is not in the employee advocacy business, only unions are. To say otherwise is disingenuous.]

One of the many daily tasks of an effective HR practitioner is ensuring a positive work environment for all. Recognizing that an abusive work environment can have a serious effect on both the morale and health of their employees, while also seriously impacting the image and profitability of an organization, most employers (through their HR departments) have conducted extensive educational/awareness programs on the negative impact “bullying” can have in the workplace.

[Ensuring a positive environment for all? Give me a break! By allowing health-harming bullying to continue unabated as HR departments do, HR sustains an employee health and safety risk for those not fortunate enough to be considered credible to disbelieving HR types. In 2007, our national survey found that 44% of employers did nothing about bullying and 18% actually worsened situations for bullied individuals. So, where are the "extensive" awareness programs about bullying? And if they even exist, as run by HR, why are they so ineffective as to not put a dent into bullying's prevalence. Perhaps because Bob and Susan (above) can't bring themselves to take bullying seriously. That's why they put it in quotes -- "bullying." Similarly, HR workers like to define themselves as HR "professionals."]

A. 05414B, as currently drafted, could have serious ramifications for employers doing business in New York State. In short, the bill could:
- Strain the day-to-day employer/employee relations in workplaces throughout the Empire State. Many employers make great efforts to provide a positive work environment, backing these efforts with formal dispute resolution processes, written codes of conduct and open door policies.

[Great efforts to create safe work environments would produce results and eliminate bullying. The very existence of bullying is testimony that either the efforts are not great or HR is completely ineffective. Ironic that the lobbyists use the term "strain" which has meaning in the occupational health literature. Job strain refers to increasing task demand while simultaneously depriving a worker control over her or his taskload. Dispute resolution refers to forcing mediation down the throats of the already compromised targeted person, codes of conduct are as empty as flowery mission, vision, values statements that ring hollow, and open doors (?) are useless if nothing results from meetings in the rooms with open or closed doors. Open doors implies that management will listen. Not if their favorite bully "Bob" is being exposed. Bob can never do wrong. This is all drivel.]

- Undermine good faith efforts by employers to establish positive work environments. In addition, this legislation would significantly increase litigation and employers’ exposure to liability for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

[Bob and Susan can't read and Susan works at JacksonLewis, dragonslayers for corporate masters. According to the bill itself, employers who take care to prevent and correct abusive conduct will be rewarded with escape from (affirmative defenses for) vicarious liability. The bill when it becomes law will reward good employers. The careful reference to good faith rather than actual employer efforts that result in a policy and faithful enforcement of it is not an accident. Shrmy wants credit for trying even if they fall short.]

- Create an incentive for certain individuals to “game the system” in an effort to seek monetary gain. With the possibility of reaping a windfall from civil awards of compensatory and punitive damages, unscrupulous individuals could be tempted to claim physical or psychological harm due to an abusive work environment, requiring their employer to incur legal fees and lost work time defending themselves against such charges.

[Here Bob and Susan are branding the majority of employees, the non-supervisory ones, as fraudulent, unscrupulous schemers. How did these people get hired? Who did the screening? Oops, that was HR. What about ethics training? Again, HR. And if a person makes a claim of psychological harm, shouldn't HR care about that. After all, Bob and Susan stated above that HR cares about "the interests of all employees. Balderdash. This bulleted point shows the actual contempt HR and corp defense attorneys have for employees who dare sue. Oh, by the way, again the illiterate (or lazy) Bob and Susan did not read the bill. It is not sufficient that the misconduct be abusive and health-harming, it must also be repeated and malicious.]

- Prove as a deterrent to drawing businesses to locate in New York State. Given that New York would be the first state in the country to provide such a right, this legislation could have a chilling effect on the business climate of our state.

[This is the Bloomberg/Chamber of Commerce Big Lie. Where will they go? If they want the talent that NY state residents bring, the biz stays in the state. Otherwise, if they are big enough, they go offshore to China. If that happens, they won't take HR with them. We say that if you have to abusive to run a state or municipal agency or a company in NY State, then you should lose your charter to do so. Will it take the Foxconn rash of worker suicides to get American employers to stop the abuse?]

End of SHRM Talking Points

There you have it. HR, the folks with “human” in their job title choose to lobby against the humans working for them in favor of obscure, inanimate needs of an impersonal corporate entity. Little wonder they have little credibility in the C-suite. Though this lapdog, ingratiating fealty to corporate masters is designed to make them appear allies to the CEO, the toadying up, they still won’t gain the respect HR craves.

The dramatic opposition to working people captured in this lobbying document by HR cements the already negative societal impression. It should remove any lingering doubt by the most optimistic and uncritical soul that HR is not your friend or advocate. HR does not deserve workers’ trust, ever!

If HR opposes stopping abuse in the American workplace, then it necessarily seeks to promote it. Based on HR’s unconscionable reaction to bullying when it is currently reported, that is clearly the case.

Please write directly to Bob Carragher at
and Susan Corcoran at to let them know what you think about SHRM’s position and the ethicality of their lobbying work.

G. Namie

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Postmaster General, and Inspector General, must go!

Mr. President: How About a Little of that Change We Can Believe in?

June 10, 2010 posted by Eric L. Wattree


While writing this series of articles I’ve had the great privilege of becoming acquainted with Dr. Stephen Musacco. Dr Musacco is a therapist, an organizational psychologist, and the author of the book “Beyond Going Postal.” In addition to his credentials as a psychologist, Dr. Musacco also has the specialized knowledge of having worked for the postal service for over thirty years.

As a professional and former insider with a through understanding of the inner workings of the postal service, the doctor’s assessment of the working environment within the agency is so chilling that one can’t help but wonder how such corruption, employee abuse, and adminsitrative indifference have been allowed to exist in a United States government agency. Thus, I’m going to devote this week’s column to an excerpt of the doctor’s professional assessment, a man who is uniquely qualified to speak to what he calls the “toxic environment ” that postal workers are forced to endure on a daily basis.

In doing so, I sincerely hope that the public will take heed to this mental health professional’s warnings. It is absolutely essential that the American people press our self-serving Washington establishment to step up to the plate to prevent another American tragedy BEFORE it happens for a change. This can be done, and it must be. In this election year the American people must realize that the only way they will ever be secure in their own lives is to make the political establishment insecure in theirs.
Justice is not cheap. The doctor’s words clearly demonstrate that in spite of what we might have been taught in grade school, justice is not a birthright. One must be prepared to fight for justice. His words also demonstrate that the time has come for the American middle-class to flex its political muscle – and fast.

At 600,000 strong, plus family, friends, and neighbors - and in an election year where incumbents are hanging on by their fingernails – postal employees are in the driver’s seat of a tank. Yet, they’re allowing themselves, and their families, to be robbed by a guy with a butter knife – and not just once outside a liquor store, but repeatedly in what is supposed to be the sanctity of their workplace. This has got to come to an end.

Why are so many union officials missing in action? Where are your congressional representatives? And President Obama, where are you?!!

Another USPS Workplace Tragedy

On the morning of June 2, 2009, a city letter carrier went to work and reportedly fatally shot himself in the head in the locker room at a postal facility in Gastonia, North Carolina. The Gaston Gazette online news report stated that the “Gastonia Police are investigating an apparent suicide this morning at the post office. . . . One of the employees is inside dead from a gunshot wound.”

Prior to my retirement from the USPS, at a former district I worked for, there were three suicides within a two year period that I concluded were contributed to in significant part by how these employees were treated in the workplace. The third employee, a city letter carrier, fatally shot himself in a postal jeep and left a letter stating that he could no longer take the job. The night before he committed suicide he told his wife he did not know if he would be able to handle his job anymore. How do I know? His wife told me this one day after his suicide. He was one of the best employees in the office. The District Manager and I interviewed his coworkers after his death, and they stated he would urinate in a bottle while on delivery route for fear he would not meet an artificial deadline set by postal management. During the interviews, one of the postal supervisors told the District Manager and me that the day before the suicide she gave a letter to all the city letter carriers in the station, noting that any future over time used for their routes would be considered unacceptable performance. The suicide at the Gastonia postal facility was the second since December 2005.

Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.

I define a toxic workplace environment as a workplace where there is a high incidence of stress-related illnesses. These stress-related illnesses are manifested by psychological and physical deterioration. In other words, these types of environments seriously erode employees’ health and well-being. The primary factors contributing to a toxic workplace environment are high job demands, low job control, and low social support. Low social support generally entails a lack of respect and validation of employees’ dignity by their “superiors”. It also oftentimes includes organizational practices and methods that encourage the bullying of employees to meet corporate goals.

The name of the city letter carrier who committed suicide in Gastonia, NC on June 2, 2009 is Steven Spencer age 60. According to his obituary, Steven was married and leaves two daughters and three grandchildren. He was a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers/ and state representative for Muscular Dystrophy Association. He was the founder of the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive for Gaston County. He was very active in Scouting, attaining the highest rank of Eagle Scout. He also was a member of the Order of the Arrow. Steven was a veteran of the Vietnam War serving his country proudly in the US Navy.

I find it highly improbable that an employee will kill himself or herself in a postal facility or while on a postal route unless it is to send a clear message that a toxic workplace exists and the person can’t handle it anymore. Sadly, it also may be a tragic attempt to better the lot of one’s fellow coworkers by drawing attention to the tragic event itself.

Prior to Steven’s suicide, I was contacted by a relative of an employee at the Gastonia post office in April of this year. She was concerned because of what she reported as a toxic workplace environment at the Gastonia post office, lack of accountability to address employees’ concerns, and that the situation may lead to another workplace tragedy. Unfortunately, her worst concern became a reality on June 2, 2009. She further indicated several employees have resigned their positions at the office because of the toxic workplace environment and others were suffering from negative psychological and physical effects because of this environment.

I was told employees’ attempts, mostly city letter carriers, to have their concerns addressed over a two-year period included: filing of discrimination complaints and grievances, unprofessional workplace assessments, town hall meetings, contacts to congressional representatives both locally and nationally, contacts to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and petitions to Charlotte postal District officials as well as to national representatives of the Postal Service and the NALC. She further indicated that none of these measures contributed to fully addressing the workplace environment or alleviating its negative impact for the employees at the Gastonia Post Office.

In order for the U.S Postal Service to become a safe and healthy organization and thereby prevent future workplace tragedies, which have been at an epidemic level over the past three decades, there is an urgent need for congressional intervention and legislation to address its toxic postal culture. Dr. Gary Namie and his wife, Dr. Ruth Namie, along with their colleague Dr. David Yamada, have for years pushed for such legislation at the state and federal level. In order for national legislation for the prevention of workplace bullying to have the intended impact, it would require sanctions to employers or their representatives who are in violation of a new workplace statute that defines workplace bullying as a harmful and illegal activity.


The Postmaster General, and Inspector General, must go!

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Chairman Edolphus Towns
U.S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5051

Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It’s not that I hate everyone who doesn’t look, think, and act like me – it’s just that God does.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New York Healthy Workplace Bill to be Voted on...

IF YOU LIVE IN NEW YORK....Call to support the New York's Healthy Workplace Bill...we're ALMOST THERE! When one state passes this bill, the others will follow. We cheer New York to lead the way and hope California won't be far behind with the California Healthy Workplace Bill! See the timely article below:

Make a Phone Call for A5414A, the Healthy Workplace Bill
June 8, 2010 · Leave a Comment

I’ve just heard that A5414A, the Healthy Workplace Bill, is scheduled to be voted on in the Labor Committee. According to newspaper reports, Committee Chair Susan John is opposed to this bill. Please contact the Assembly Labor Committee members if you can, urging them to send the bill to the Assembly floor. Barbara Lifton is one of the multi-sponsors of this bill. Thank you again, Barbara!

Since I first started researching workplace bullying and speaking about the Workers’ Center commitment to addressing this largely unacknowledged problem, I have heard many stories about targeted workers suffering severe health problems. It is not uncommon for targets to end up in mental health units of hospitals; heart attacks and stomach and digestive complications have also been reported to me. This is a serious problem that we must take seriously.

Don’t let this bill die in the Labor Committee!

Update: I’ve just learned from Megan at Barbara Lifton’s Albany office that A5414 was returned to Committee for further consideration. This means that the Assembly bill was not defeated but not sent to the Assembly for vote yet either. Megan said that this bill will be voted on by the Labor Committee before Session which starts June 21st.

This means that we do have time to call the Labor Committee, particularly Susan John, the Committee Chair, to urge the legislators to send this bill to the Assembly this summer. Please try to make that call or email.