Tuesday News: More of the same

JOSH DOBSON'S LABOR DEPARTMENT GROSSLY UNDERCOUNTS WORK-RELATED COVID FATALITIES: Worker advocates say 26 COVID-19 deaths — out of a total of 91 reported workplace deaths — strikes them as low. “Twenty-six sounds like it’s a gross underestimate, just given how prevalent COVID has been, especially among essential workers,” said MaryBe McMillan, president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO. Hunter Ogletree, director of the Western North Carolina Workers Center, said the number appears especially low considering the labor department received 4,842 complaints from workers regarding COVID-19 in 2020. Labor advocates say that a system that relies on voluntary reporting from employers is inevitably going to result in under-reporting. “The good employers are going to cooperate, and there are plenty of others who either because they’re lazy or because of oversight or actually because of malicious reasons, are not going to show that information,” said Ripley.

KEVIN STONE OF SCV FILES LAWSUIT OVER DISCONTINUED CONFEDERATE LICENSE PLATES: Kevin Stone, state commander for the group, said the state Division of Motor Vehicles never discussed the move with him or the group’s attorneys, despite numerous inquiries about why no new Sons of Confederate Veterans plates had been sent out for months, WRAL reported Monday. Stone alleges that North Carolina “acted in bad faith” and has always been hostile to group members. He also said the Confederate flag is the organization’s symbol, and the group shouldn’t have to abandon it on its license plates. The agency said the removal of the license plate, issued to members of the SCV, took effect Jan. 1. The StarNews of Wilmington reported the move came six months after NCDMV acknowledged it had received complaints about the Confederate battle flag appearing on a specialty license plate. “The Division of Motor Vehicles has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them,” the agency said in a statement. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

NC TRANSGENDER STUDENTS WILL NOW HAVE CHOSEN NAME LISTED ON STATE RECORDS: Supporters of transgender students are praising a change that will see North Carolina public schools switch from showing the legal name of students to their chosen name on most state records. The state Department of Public Instruction notified school districts Friday that it’s updating the PowerSchool student information system to display a “preferred name” that will now be used on most records. LGBTQ groups had lobbied for the change, saying that using the legal name harmed transgender students emotionally and put them at risk of being outed. “It really protects the privacy of transgender students and respects their identity,” Craig White, supportive schools coordinator at the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality, said in an interview Monday. “It respects who they are rather than misgendering or misidentifying them.” White said that his group had been lobbying DPI for the changes to PowerSchool for more than two years. He said it’s becoming even more critical now for the 15,000 to 45,000 transgender North Carolina K-12 students, who are at greater risk of being bullied than other students.

ROGER STONE LINKED TO OATH KEEPER WHO STORMED CAPITOL: A man linked by prosecutors to the Oath Keepers and Republican strategist Roger Stone was arrested Monday in New York and charged with criminal involvement in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Roberto Minuta, 36, of Texas is accused of obstructing the formal counting of presidential election votes, trespassing and attempting to cover up his crimes. He was ordered released on a $125,000 bond over the objections of federal prosecutors. Gianforti said Minuta came to the Capitol dressed in gear identifying him as a member of the right-wing Oath Keepers group — citing a video in which he appears with Stone that morning. Federal prosecutors have alleged that members of the Oath Keepers conspired to storm the Capitol to prevent President Biden from taking office. Minuta was carrying a firearm and pepper or bear spray on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors; he was also armed when he was arrested Saturday at his tattoo parlor in New York. Upon his arrest, he questioned why antifa and Black Lives Matter adherents were not being targeted instead, Gianforti said. The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether Stone and other high-profile right-wing figures played a role in the insurrection by promoting false claims that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. Stone, a longtime Trump friend and adviser, was involved in some events on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 but says they were peaceful protests. Stone did not immediately return a request for comment. He has publicly distanced himself from the violence and criticized it, saying that there is no evidence he had knowledge of the attack and that any implication otherwise is “guilt by association.” In an interview with the Tennessee Star last month, Stone said that he had to hire private security and did not know any of the men around him that day.

AMERICAN ECONOMY HEADED FOR RAPID RECOVERY IN WAKE OF STIMULUS & VACCINATIONS: The American economy will accelerate nearly twice as fast as expected this year as the expected passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, combined with a rapid vaccine rollout, ignites a powerful recovery from the pandemic, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. But countries that are stumbling in the pace of their vaccination campaigns, especially those in Europe, risk falling behind in the global recovery as a failure to beat back the spread of the virus forces governments to keep swaths of their economies closed, delaying the chance for people to get back to normal lives, the organization said. In its half-year outlook, the organization said the United States would expand 6.5 percent this year, up sharply from 3.2 percent forecast in December. The surge in the world’s largest economy will generate enough momentum to help lift global output 5.6 percent, from a 3.4 percent contraction in 2020. Although a global recovery is in sight, spending by governments intended to jump-start their economies will have limited impact unless authorities accelerate national vaccine rollouts and relax virus containment measures, the report added. If vaccination programs aren’t fast enough to cut infection rates, or if new variants become more widespread and require changes to vaccines, consumer spending and business confidence would be hit. “Stimulus without vaccinations won’t be as effective because consumers won’t go out doing normal things,” Laurence Boone, the O.E.C.D.’s chief economist, said in an online news briefing. “It’s the combination of health and fiscal policy that matters.”



Self-reporting workplace injuries & illness

is one of the least logical public policies ever arrived at. Why? Because companies are hyper-vigilant about issues that may drag them into court, and voluntarily accepting responsibility for an injury or death will likely cost them money.

It ain't rocket surgery. County health departments should be gathering exposure information on those who have tested positive for Coronavirus, and if a patient says they caught the virus at work, that needs to be followed up. Unfortunately, after years of negligence, the NC Department of Labor cannot be relied upon to investigate these things.

That doesn't mean the matter gets dropped, it means somebody else needs to do it.