All the News That's Fit To Print (Except for Workers' Comp...)

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Posted by John Lewis on March 18, 1999 at 00:03:57:

Ever wonder why press coverage is a little thin concerning Workers' Comp
issues? Read the following:

>>To: Multiple recipients of list CORP-FOCUS
>>Subject: What's Black and White and Red All Over

>>Let's say you are a newspaper boy, or girl.
>>And you are riding your bicycle up and down the street delivering
>>And a car runs hits your bike, you fall and suffer severe injuries.
>>Who pays your medical bill?
>>Well, most likely, you are not covered under your state's workers'
>>compensation law, even though you are a worker.
>>This is a real issue for the hundreds of thousands newspaper carriers, the
>>vast majority of whom are young teenagers.
>>Between 1992 and 1997, 99 news vendors were killed on the job, eleven of
>>them under the age of 18. A 1994 Newspaper Association of America survey
>>found there were about 450,000 child and adult carriers in the United
>>States and that only 5.9 percent of carriers were covered by workers'
>>The reason newspaper carriers are not covered by workers' comp is simple
>>enough: in a decades-long campaign, the newspaper industry has
>>successfully sought to exclude newspaper carriers from workers' comp laws,
>>minimum wage laws, workers' safety laws, right up to and including social
>>security laws. They have done this by pressuring legislatures to write
>>newspaper carriers out of these laws designed to protect workers.
>>Earlier this year, the newspaper industry's dirty little secret was
>>exposed by University of Iowa Professor Marc Linder.  ["What's Black and
>>White and Red All Over? The Blood Tax On Newspapers -- or, How Publishers
>>Exclude Newscarriers from Workers' Compensation," (3 Loyola Poverty Law
>>Journal 57 August 1998)].
>>Linder sent this law review article to reporters and columnists around the
>>country -- reporters who had covered his research in the past.
>>But on this very hot labor issue dear to the hearts of newspaper industry,
>>Linder was given the cold shoulder.
>>"I have been told directly by various reporters and columnists that they
>>would never get it past their editors and they don't want to waste their
>>journalistic, political capital on this matter because it is not going to
>>get published anyway and they don't want to struggle with their editors
>>over it," Linder told us recently.
>>One reporter proved the exception: Associated Press workplace reporter
>>Maggie Jackson. Last year, Jackson had written about Linder's pathbreaking
>>study about how corporations were infringing on basic worker rights, such
>>as the right to use the bathroom.  [Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and
>>the Right to Urinate on Company Time, by Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygaard,
>>(Cornell University Press, 1998)]. Jackson's story on the right to urinate
>>went out on the AP wire and was published in newspapers around the world.
>>Jackson interviewed Linder and others about the newspaper
>>delivery-workers' comp issue, and wrote the story. She assumed that her
>>bosses at the Associated Press, a cooperative of newspaper companies,
>>would run it.
>>Instead, in a brazen act of censorship, her bosses killed it.
>>Jackson confirmed to us that the story was "spiked," as she put it, but
>>she would not answer questions as to why.
>>Linder too does not know why.
>>"I can only speculate that either the people who killed it have so
>>internalized the thought patterns of the publishers who cooperatively own
>>the AP that they know on their own that this is not a subject that would
>>redound to the benefit of the cooperative owners," Linder said. "Or
>>someone from the publishers' side caught wind of the story, called them
>>and killed it. This latter point is total speculation on my part. I don't
>>know that, but I can imagine it."
>>When asked about the workers' comp problem, newspaper industry executives
>>argue that since carriers are independent contractors and not employees,
>>the carriers must assume the risks.
>>"Almost uniformly, their response was mechanical -- the children are
>>independent contractors and not our problem," Linder said. "This is the
>>mantra the newspapers have been chanting for decades."
>>In his research, Linder found that some newspaper executives understand
>>the problem and want to do something about it.
>>"I know that the managers of the St. Petersburg Times say that they treat
>>all of their delivery people as employees and they cover them with
>>workers' compensation," Linder said. "The circulation manager at the
>>Columbus Dispatch is very concerned about the children and he personally
>>got the owner of the newspaper to treat all of the children as employees
>>and to cover them with workers' compensation. The Dispatch is
>>independently owned and that is one reason they are able to do it."
>>Industry executives ought to do the right thing and follow the lead of
>>their brethren at the Columbus and St. Petersburg papers and attack this
>>problem head on. It can't cost them all that much money to fold their
>>child laborers into workers' comp programs. And with the ever-expanding
>>news outlets on the internet, they can't expect to bury this story for
>>Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime
>>Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, DC- based
>>Multinational Monitor.
>>(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
>>Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber
>>and Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or
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