Democrats & Liberals

Stable Jobs for Unstable Times

Posted by Magnolia on April 9, 2020 at 1:57 PM

The coronavirus crisis has already resulted in the loss of millions of jobs globally, and with no clear end in sight, Americans are rightfully concerned about their futures. This pandemic has exposed many holes in American society, and with access to healthcare tied to employment, the issue isn't just economic in nature but a matter of public health. While the nation faces an unspoken hiring freeze over the next few months, it is important to consider employment options that may be available once things have settled down.

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How the FDA Regulates in Comparison to the World

Posted by jhamilton on March 30, 2020 at 12:54 PM

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The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a massive amount of responsibility. The organization is in charge of regulating everything from medications to fresh food, tobacco products, and cosmetics, and as of March 2020, the FDA has its hands full thanks to COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus).

The virus has quickly enveloped the world, and ordinary citizens are scrambling to access both emergency provisions and information. The FDA has taken on much of the responsibility of helping to control the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. On February 29, for example, the FDA issued a new policy for diagnostics testing related to public health emergencies. The organization continues to monitor the spread of coronavirus in addition to its everyday responsibilities.

For now, the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 has eclipsed the majority of questions related to how the FDA operates. However, consumer concerns remain relevant, especially regarding the safety of the national food supply and medication efficacy. Some critics have even referred to the FDA's food safety efforts as "ineffective" and "inadequate," noting that FDA standards differ considerably from regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere. In the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic, how does the FDA stand up?

Health and Medication Concerns

Every medication or medical device intended to treat or cure an illness, disease, or chronic health condition must be reviewed by the FDA prior to sale. The FDA will then affix an appropriate label on the medication or medical device, such as "FDA cleared" or "FDA approved." The process is known as pre-market approval, or PMA, and it is a rigorous endeavor.

During the PMA process, FDA officials attempt to confirm that the benefits of a medication or treatment method are greater than the potential risks. These risks include possible side effects. The FDA gathers information from relevant scientific studies and trials in order to determine a product's safety and effectiveness. According to Medical News Today, a negligible 1% of products pass the PMA process.

It's important to note that vitamins and supplements are not reviewed by the FDA; thus, those manufacturers cannot claim that their products effectively treat a particular health condition or symptoms. The bulk of prescription medications, however, are subject to the PMA process.

Even if FDA approved, manufacturers must disclose potential side effects. For example, the FDA has approved Truvada as a treatment for HIV infection, but notes that serious side effects of the drug may include bone loss, lactic acidosis, and kidney problems. In the case of Truvada, the FDA has clearly determined that its benefits trump the potential risks.

The FDA's Role in Food Safety

Along with medication efficacy and safety, ensuring the safety of what we eat represents another crucial job for the FDA, but FDA standards may not be up to par when compared to the rest of the developed world. Notably, the oxidizing agent potassium bromate is considered a cancer risk by Canadian, Brazilian, and EU governments who have all banned its use in food products.

The FDA, however, has made no such move, and potassium bromate remains a common ingredient in a wide variety of foods despite its carcinogenic properties. That's just a single example of how the FDA tends to turn a blind eye when it comes to food-related hazards.

Few can deny that Americans are a rather unhealthy bunch with approximately 160 million men and women considered obese or overweight. Then there's the prevalence of foodborne illness to consider. On an annual basis, 48 million Americans contract a food-related illness. Some solutions to this problem are available at the service level such as ensuring that food prep surfaces and equipment are sufficiently sanitized and that food is kept at the proper temperature.

FDA plays a major part in food safety as well, ensuring that food labels are accurate while also overseeing the quality of substances sold as food in the U.S. Today, however, these concerns often take a back burner to more pressing matters in the realm of medications and viruses.

Can the FDA Help Prevent Future Epidemics?

COVID-19 has effectively spread like wildfire, quickly snowballing into a pandemic. Because of this, people across the globe have eagerly pointed judgmental fingers at governmental leaders and organizations. In the U.S., the FDA is an easy scapegoat despite its best efforts to help contain the virus and increase access to respiratory devices and medications.

Controversy and criticism are nothing new to the FDA, which boasts a regulatory history spanning more than a century. The FDA was founded in 1906 and has faced a number of crises over the years as well as made dubious decisions. Unlike many other nations, the FDA has yet to ban asbestos, a natural mineral that boasts a wide variety of applications in the cosmetics, construction, and automotive industry. Like potassium bromate, asbestos is a known carcinogen that can lead to serious health conditions including mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer. It's unclear why the FDA still allows the widespread use of asbestos.

Despite the organization's shortcomings, at the end of the day, FDA regulations are in place to protect the health of the general public. No matter your opinion on the ability of the FDA to do an effective job, it's important to remember that the organization is often at the forefront of life-or-death situations. Whether the inspection or approval process involves a potentially life-saving drug, questionable food additives, or a new medical device, the FDA has a massive job in working to keep Americans safe and healthy.

The Pull Yourself Up from Your Bootstraps Mentality Needs to Be Replaced with Volunteer Work

Posted by Magnolia on March 11, 2020 at 5:36 PM

If you're down on your luck, then traditional wisdom says you should "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." The image is so prominent that it's even common parlance in business and financing. When uttered today, it's usually a suggestion that you should use what means you have available to turn things around and make your life a success. After all, so many other people did it, why can't everyone?

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Worker's Benefits We Should Be Fighting For

Posted by jhamilton on February 19, 2020 at 5:25 PM

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As the 2020 election cycle goes into full swing, many American workers are faced with the question of who they think will best represent their interests going forward into the new decade. On November 3rd, the office of President of the United States of America, 35 out of the 100 seats of the United States Senate, and all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives will be contested. Before America heads to the voting booths, we should take a serious look at worker's benefits and rights we should be fighting for and investigate what candidates are the most likely to enact positive change.

Worker's Compensation

Worker's compensation laws are some of the few ways in which corporations are forced to acknowledge that employees are living, breathing people and not simply a commodity or tool that can be discarded after it becomes damaged. The basic idea behind worker's compensation laws is that, if you do happen to become injured performing labor or services for a business entity, they are obligated to provide assistance in your recovery and financial security until you are able to once again enter the workforce.

As far as social insurance programs go, worker's compensation is one of the oldest in the United States and arguably one of its most important safety nets. Unfortunately, worker's compensation laws are decentralized and there are no federal minimum standards set for how a state government runs its worker's compensation programs. This has led to varying levels of benefits and coverage for workers from state to state, and many states have changed worker's compensation programs to provide shorter claims filing windows, making it harder for workers to get their qualified benefits.

Because there is no standard set by the federal government and an individual state can have wildly different rules, it is important to research your state's worker's compensation program. For instance, in Georgia, the term "injury" is actually quite broadly defined and applies not only to injuries sustained in sudden accidents but to some injuries that develop over time gradually. Other states such as Alabama have far worse worker's compensation laws and lower payouts than the relatively generous policies of Georgia, so it is wise to do your homework. Do some digging on which prospective state representative has any policy regarding worker's compensation or its reform and vote accordingly.

Family Leave

Another instance where the lack of any sort of government regulation leads to the exploitation of U.S. workers is in regards to family leave. Americans are some of the most overworked and underpaid workers in any developed country, largely due to the fact that the federal government enables corporations to implement policies that are designed specifically to cut costs regardless of the impact it has on workers. While individual states can implement laws requiring businesses to provide paid family leave, in 2017, only three states had mandated such a law. By this year, five states and Washington, DC, were expected to have paid family leave.

While the federal government does require that businesses across the US offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per the Family Medical Leave Act, there are a number of ways in which a business can skirt this rule or an employee may not even be eligible. Businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt from the FMLA, and employers may even request medical certification from a doctor as long as the information does not fall under ADA or HIPAA protections.

Federal workers recently won a huge battle in regards to paid family leave with the inclusion of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act into the massive National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. The FEPLA allows for 2.1 million federal workers to take up to 12 weeks paid leave following an adoption, childbirth, or fostering. This is, of course, fantastic news for the millions of federal employees in the US, but there are certainly candidates at both the state and presidential level that would work to ensure paid family leave for all employees.

Health Insurance

Though the passing of the FEPLA is certainly exciting for federal workers, it is somewhat of a pyrrhic victory. The Trump administration, for the third year in a row, has proposed further cuts to federal workers' health benefits as well as to their retirement benefits and pay. The White House estimates that these austerity measures would save the U.S. $5 billion in 2020, which is about half of the amount of the funding that they have secured for Trump's passion project, his "big beautiful wall".

Healthcare reform is a seemingly bipartisan issue, though the establishment of both parties balk at the idea of a public option, citing the idea that it would unfairly compete with private insurance companies. Universal healthcare is actually a massive boon to unionized workers' ability to negotiate for higher pay instead of having the issue of healthcare dominate contract battles. A single-payer system actually gives unions more bargaining power in the long run, despite what you'll hear from the Republican Party and moderate democratic candidates.

Yes, labor unions fought hard for the health insurance benefits that they have, and some unions feel that it would be wrong to undo that hard work by instating universal healthcare. However, it should be noted that with universal healthcare, unions would have the ability to argue for far more favorable wages and working conditions. The benefits of universal healthcare policies and thus the candidates both local and federal that support them far outweigh anything lost as far as worker's rights go.

At the end of the day, all worker's rights are important in the US. People have fought and died for the worker's rights we have today. However, we should not remain complacent and instead look forward to a future that is better for the generations to come after us. This is a wildly important election for the future of worker's rights. Do your research and vote accordingly.

Body and Mind: Sexual Harassment, Workers' Compensation, and Labor Rights: Where Are We Now?

Posted by Magnolia on February 6, 2020 at 2:55 PM

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No matter how much we love our homes and families, for many of us, the workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours. It should be a safe place. A place where you do fulfilling work. A place where you build your family's future. But for too many of us, the workplace is not a haven but a terror and a dread.

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Tips for U.S. Business Travelers to Japan

Posted by jhamilton on February 5, 2020 at 11:02 AM

Japan and the United States have a unique history. However, the power of commerce binds these two nations together in ways few could have expected fifty years ago.

The business ties between Japan and the U.S. grow stronger by the year. Since 2002, Japanese businesses have created 840,000 jobs for American workers. The numbers are significant: Japanese companies employ more American workers than any other country (with the exception of the UK). It's no surprise then Japan is a popular destination among business travelers. What's more, the Japanese government recently opened up its immigration system to attract more foreign workers.

Traveling to Japan or another foreign destination is not like a trip to Toledo. It requires more preparation to not only learn but begin to understand the cultural norms practiced by Japanese businesses and workers. Learning how to socialize appropriately and getting to grips with how decisions get made will not only help you save face in a country that highly values politeness and honor but will make your trips more productive.

Socialization is as Important as the Boardroom

With today's technology, long-haul business trips are becoming less necessary. The use of tools like cloud-based digital signatures means two parties can securely sign documents remotely. Although the technology's use is widely dominated by North American firms, it is growing substantially in the Asia-Pacific region. Even still, the Japanese consider socialization to be an important part of a business transaction. Tech like cloud-based document management has an increasingly important place. However, the Japanese consider socialization outside the office to be as important as the technology used in the boardroom.

When you travel to Japan, you should be ready to put in extra effort to socialize with no regard for your jetlag. In Japan, it's common for the office to leave work and head to a bar to eat and drink for hours after the official end of the business day. These after-hours chats are important for developing personal relationships with your Japanese counterparts, who value relationships with people they know and trust above all else.

While out on the town, you'll want to avoid chatting about personal and sensitive matters: you won't say much more about your family other than you have one and you should avoid politics or other controversial subjects. Instead, come up with other interesting topics that you can talk about confidently or with some curiosity, including those related to the nature of your work or topics related to sports, Japanese culture and history, and local attractions.

Baseball fans do particularly well as it is a popular sport in Japan, but do also ask about Japan's impressive national rugby team, too!

Learn the Meaning of the Word "No"

There is a common myth that suggests Japanese people in general and business people in particular never say "no." They do. In fact, there are hundreds of ways to say "no" in Japanese. And you'll hear them as the Japanese use them to deny compliments or express modesty.

At the same time, it is uncouth to use the word "no" as directly as you might in German or American culture. Instead, Japanese businesspeople will disguise their "no" as an expression of regret or even as a "maybe."

You are more likely to encounter a direct "no" in an informal situation but almost never in a business meeting. As a result, you need to be able to do as the Japanese do and "read the air." To read the air is to read a social situation, which means keeping an eye on body language and other social cues to understand when what they're saying is "no," even if they don't say it directly.

Remember that it's not only important to understand how your Japanese counterparts say no but also to mirror this in your own behavior. A direct "no" is not possible in polite company, even if it's what you're used to. You'll need to learn to express yourself in a circumspect way.

Close Deals by Embracing the Hierarchy

Of course, U.S. businesses have a sense of hierarchy with management levels and structures for decision making. But it differs from the Japanese hierarchical structure, and if you want to walk away from your trip having accomplished your mission, it's important to understand how the Japanese organize their companies.

The Japanese take a hierarchical approach to authority. It's based on the social ethics of Confucianism, which places people in a vertical, hierarchical relationship. Because the stability of society depends on maintaining these relationships, there are clear boundaries for each level. Those at the top provide instructions, and they appreciate talking to other (at least perceived) decision-makers without your organization. At the same time, decision making in Japan happens by consensus. The leader seeks buy-in from the rest of the team before proceeding.

It's important to reciprocate the Japanese approach to hierarchy and decision-making while in their offices. In a meeting, your most senior team member will sit across from their Japanese counterpart and so on. If you are a junior member of a team and you have an idea, your role is to pass it down the line to a senior member of the team to presentation rather than try to negotiate as an equal.

Getting to know these structures will also be important during the social after-work settings outlined above. You won't discuss business strategy or close deals at the bar or over dinner. These are settings for relationship building only. Your understanding of hierarchy needs to inform your situational behavior.

Are You Ready for Your First Overseas Assignment?

Working with Japanese businesses is a rewarding experience that offers insight into your own ways of thinking and working. However, the key to making the most of your first overseas business assignment is to do plenty of preparation before you leave -- not just on the plane.

By getting to grips with how the Japanese build relationships, communicate and make decisions, you'll be much better prepared to embrace the unique relationship that Japanese and American businesses enjoy.

Why Are Americans So Unhealthy?

Posted by jhamilton on January 28, 2020 at 12:16 PM

The United States is the world's wealthiest country, but the health of its general population is middling at best. Compared to other high-income countries, Americans live shorter lives and experience higher rates of illness and injury. The difference is so substantial that the National Research Council refers to the discrepancy as a "mortality gap."

Poorer outcomes may come as no surprise to the average American, who struggles to navigate the country's healthcare system. Yet, even wealthy Americans may have worse health compared to their peers in other countries. In other words, even those who can afford access to healthcare in the U.S. are still not enjoying the quality of life found in other wealthy countries.

Why are Americans so unhealthy, and what can be done to help close the gap?

A Lack of Social Programs Means More Americans Get Sick

The ills of the American healthcare system are both many and well-known. Americans spend more on healthcare than any other nation (by far) and yet still see worse health outcomes. While this is a problem, there is even another spending issue potentially at work.

Despite increasing its healthcare spending each year, the U.S. spends substantially less on health-adjacent social programs, like housing, education, food, jobs, and transportation. Instead, the U.S. sinks the vast majority of its money into Medicaid, and it has spent relatively little money on social housing or food access.

There is a wealth of research that demonstrates the ability of social assistance programs to protect public health. What's more, social programs aren't just a policy issue. The medical community (including regulators like the CDC) refer to the areas these programs tackle as the social determinants of health -- essentially, when resources are available to help people overcome potential negative determinants of health, overall population health improves.

Access to Simple Health Tools is Expensive

Let's briefly forget about how much it costs to go to the doctor or the price of prescription medication and return to the core building blocks of health: healthy food and regular exercise. These are the core building blocks of good health outcomes, but it is also a place where the U.S. does poorly compared to other countries.

The high price of healthy food isn't a new trend. It didn't arise with the rapid expansion of Whole Foods, and people have complained about the cost of fresh food for decades now.

It costs money to farm fresh fruit and vegetables, but unlike other countries, the U.S. doesn't subsidize leafy vegetables like it does corn, soy, and wheat. As a result, the cost of vegetable crops gets passed on to the consumer. The subsidized crops (corn, wheat, and soy) are the ones that make up the vast majority of ingredients in inexpensive foods, including junk food.

Americans don't just spend more on fresh food, either. Group exercise classes like pilates can be expensive due to the overall time and energy that goes into curating an effective course and routine, and these expensive classes are dominating fitness opportunities now. Even a barebones Crossfit gym can set members back several hundred dollars each month. At the same time, discount box gyms aren't a one-size-fits-all solution -- one survey even found that 80% of people feel nervous about going to a gym.

The U.S. Funds Care for the Elderly Only

The U.S. provides healthcare funding through the Medicare and Medicaid programs for what are supposed to be the two most vulnerable social groups: the poor and the elderly. However, neither program covers everything, and seniors still spend hundreds of thousands on their healthcare during retirement. Only providing for these two populations so assumes that those who are in full employment and of working age need only preventative care, which isn't true.

Women's healthcare and pregnant women, in particular, are a good example of population groups whose needs aren't fully covered through the current system. Postpartum maternal health is widely neglected both in healthcare research and in coverage, but postpartum recovery is a significant indicator of a woman's future health. Yet, the day women leave the hospital after giving birth is the day they usually fall off the healthcare radar.

The U.S. is the worst developed country for maternal health, not only because other countries provide both prenatal and postpartum care for free but because they provide it at all. And to return to the issue of funding social programs, the U.S. is the only country that doesn't require paid maternity leave, which means many new mothers need to go back to work immediately -- whether or not they are healthy enough to do so.

Public Health Doesn't Begin and End at the Doctor

The U.S.'s expensive and broken healthcare system is only one factor in the lackluster state of American public health. Health is about more than being able to afford to see a specialist -- it includes the total sum of a person's life or the social determinants of health.

Where the U.S. misses out isn't just in affordability, it also fails at supporting public health by ensuring that the population has access to healthy food, housing stability, and clean water. It helps to prioritize healthy foods and exercise by making them affordable. And it recognizes that the elderly aren't the only demographic who need both extra medical and social support.

Until the U.S. takes a holistic view of health, its public will continue to see poorer health outcomes, even with a single-payer or universal program.

Holding Businesses Accountable for Employee Safety

Posted by Magnolia on January 27, 2020 at 12:47 PM

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Employers have an obligation to keep employees safe: it's both a matter of ethics and codified into law through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) and among many other laws, like the requirement to carry workers' compensation insurance. At the same time, 1 in 7 American employees don't feel safe at work.

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Safety First? Not So Fast: The Future of Workplace Safety in the US

Posted by jhamilton on January 21, 2020 at 6:57 PM

The United States is the most technologically advanced nation in human history. Our medical systems save millions of lives every year. The scope of our understanding of disease and injury prevention is immense. Yet American workers continue to labor every single day in conditions that value production over safety. Not only this, but the effects of workplace environmental exposures can linger for months, years, or even decades after the worker leaves the job. Some workers never recover. And far too many do not survive. Nevertheless, health and safety regulations continue to be rolled back. In an already deficient and damaged system, the state of workplace safety in the United States will only continue to deteriorate unless dramatic and immediate intervention occurs.

Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos is one of the most significant and ubiquitous hazards in the workplace today. The risk affects a range of industries, from construction to firefighting to the military. Even workers not directly handling asbestos-containing materials may still be exposed: for decades, asbestos was commonly used as a flame-retardant insulating material.

It continues to be found in homes and commercial buildings, with owners refusing to incur the expense of eradication--in defiance both of government regulations and the increasing awareness of the lethal risks of asbestos exposure, the most severe of which is the development of mesothelioma, a rare and furiously dangerous type of lung cancer.

Flu

Far too often, the flu is dismissed as an inconvenience. You feel miserable for about a week, but then you get over it and move on. The reality, though, is that flu claims tens of thousands of lives in the US every year. The CDC estimates, for instance, that 80,000 people died from the flu or its complications in 2017, and the 2019-2020 flu season may be even worse.

Despite the risks, though, many US workers are reluctant to stay home when they're sick, either because they can't afford to miss work or because they fear reprisals from their employer or coworkers. The problem is especially significant for workers in the food services industry, which not only puts coworkers at risk but also threatens the safety of the general public. Any worker, but food services especially, should be allowed to stay home when ill in order to keep the flu out of the workplace.

Stress and Burnout

Modern technology has not only changed the way we communicate, play, and get our entertainment, but it's also changing the way we work. Now more than ever, mobile tech allows us to carry our office with us wherever we go. And while that certainly makes us more productive, it also means that we now have nowhere to go to truly be free of the pressures of work, no time to truly relax and decompress. The result is skyrocketing rates of anxiety, stress, and employee burnout, which not only compromise the workers' overall quality of life but also diminishes their performance, affecting customers and colleagues alike.

Environmental Contamination

American workers are not the only ones impacted by hazards in the US workplace. The majority of US businesses, particularly in the manufacturing industries, are reliant to at least some extent on fossil fuels, wreaking devastating impacts on both human health and the environment, as was demonstrated more than a decade ago in Al Gore's groundbreaking documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Though environmentalists have long sounded the alarm on the necessity of controlling and significantly reducing fossil fuel emissions, the marginal progress made in recent years is now threatened by the Trump administration's environmentally-unfriendly policies, backed by a value system that prioritizes the profitability of the free market over the lives of ordinary citizens or the well-being of the planet.

The Takeaway

The future of workplace safety in the United States is not what it could be, and it is not what it should be. Workers continue to suffer from the debilitating and sometimes life-threatening effects of exposure to harmful substances, such as asbestos. In addition, financial considerations and workplace pressures often discourage workers from staying home when they are ill, contributing to the spread of dangerous infectious illnesses, such as the flu.

The advent of mobile technologies has also exacerbated a host of workplace dangers, including the threat of anxiety disorders and burnout. Finally, the rollback of regulations by the Trump administration has compromised not only the health and safety of workers but also of the environment. Restrictions on fossil fuel emissions are being curtailed, increasing pollution in the air, water, and land and contributing to a variety of human illnesses, from asthma and COPD to cardiovascular disease. Workplace safety is not just about the well-being of employees. The effects of workplace hazards filter out to every man, woman, and child across this vast country and our increasingly interconnected world, impacting our entire human family and the precious, suffering planet we call home.

Is Technology a Concern for Teen Health?

Posted by Magnolia on January 21, 2020 at 3:52 PM

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There was a time when your average teen's day didn't consist of much more than school, homework, and hanging with friends. If you think back to your childhood, you can probably remember doing things like riding your bike around the neighborhood with your friends or watching movies to pass the time. However, teens in the digital age spend their time much differently.

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What's the Current State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.?

Posted by Magnolia on January 7, 2020 at 5:29 PM

No matter our chosen industry, most of us take the concept of workplace safety for granted. After all, wide-reaching workplace accident prevention programs and data collection have been routine since 1913, when the National Safety Council (NSC) was founded. Today, the nonprofit NSC performs a variety of services, such as offering safety training courses for employers that seek to reduce job site injuries and build a culture of safety.

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Labor Rights in the Trucking Industry

Posted by jhamilton on January 6, 2020 at 6:17 PM

The trucking industry is synonymous with American roads and highways. On family road trips, semi-trucks are such a common sight that there's even a traditional signal the kids can use to encourage a truck driver to honk his or her horn. Semi-trucks are so ubiquitous, in fact, that they transport about 71% of the nation's total freight, according to American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Although truck driving is such an integral component of capitalism, drivers themselves aren't always treated with the respect they deserve. The unfortunate reality is that, while truck driving is an inherently dangerous occupation, drivers typically remain overlooked in the realm of labor rights. Further, trucking company owners may engage in unscrupulous business practices that put drivers at risk every time they get behind the wheel.

Stories of roadway accidents involving semi-trucks are headline news on a daily basis in America. Some truck accidents, such as a December 18 Florida collision involving a semi-truck and a cargo van, don't result in injuries. But that crash is an exception rather than a rule, and trucking accidents are often fatal.

History of the Trucking Industry

It may come as a surprise, but America's first semi-truck hit the road in 1899. Ohio-based engineer Alexander Winton needed a way to deliver his company's manufactured cars to buyers across the U.S. without putting wear and tear on the vehicles themselves. So Winton designed a hauler that could handle the transport and delivery of a single automobile. Winton's semi-truck hauler was soon adopted by other car making companies.

But it wasn't until the 1950s that semi-trucks became firmly rooted in America's freight industry. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 allowed for the construction of interstate highways, which allowed for travel between states at high speeds. And it is those high speeds that help contribute to the elevated number of fatal crashes involving large trucks that occur on America's roadways.

The Federal Motor Carrier Transportation Administration (FMCSA) reports that about 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, but that's only part of the overall picture. It's easy to blame truck drivers for these types of roadway accidents, as they drive hefty vehicles and are susceptible to driver fatigue, which can slow reaction times and impair decision-making skills. However, studies show that the majority of fatal car-truck crashes are actually caused by car drivers.

In fact, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that car drivers were found to be at fault for more than 80% of fatal car-truck accidents. Yet truck drivers typically receive the brunt of the blame. It's an unfortunate side effect of choosing a career in the truck driving industry.

What it Takes to Be a Truck Driver

Depending on one's state of residence, the path towards a career as a professional truck driver may differ significantly. But in general, the first step is obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) as well as a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Then, professional training is required, most commonly from an accredited truck driving school. Prospective drivers must also pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) exam, which screens a driver's vision and hearing abilities.

Once a driver has successfully passed all exams and completed professional training, it's time to find work. Many truck drivers are employed through a trucking or freight company. Others, however, opt for a more independent work life and become independent owner/operators.

While working as an independent trucking contractor may seem like a good idea on the surface, at least where employee protection is concerned, it comes with a hefty upfront cost. For instance, independent drivers generally must supply their own rig for hauling. On top of the cost of the vehicle itself, maintenance, and gas, there's also insurance to consider.

In most cases, truck drivers who drive their own vehicles are required to carry commercial auto insurance. That requirement in itself effectively puts truck drivers at risk: In the event of an accident, an independent commercial truck driver may ultimately be responsible for associated costs, such as property damage and/or medical bills.

The Future of Trucking Industry Employment

The motor vehicle landscape is constantly evolving, and modern technology is helping to alter the trucking industry even further. Some researchers postulate that alternative transportation may be the future of trucking, reducing emissions on a national level and making our roads safer. Perhaps the mere idea of alternative transportation technology is one of the primary reasons behind America's current truck driver shortage.

There are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S., which sounds like quite a lot on the surface. But many of those truck drivers aren't active, and those who are tend to be middle-aged or elderly men. Although tractor-trailer truck drivers may earn upwards of $43,680 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, young people may be turned off by the industry's long hours and changing safety laws.

For instance, there is a limit to the amount of total time that drivers can spend behind the wheel in a day. But many times, a driver's expected delivery time doesn't account for required breaks or rest periods. The Department of Labor requires that drivers be paid for at least 16 hours in a 24-hour period, but a number of trucking companies have fought against paying their drivers during periods of rest or sleep.

Final Thoughts

Despite rampant globalization and the fact that a significant amount of U.S. goods are manufactured overseas, trucks remain the go-to shipping method across the nation. Unfortunately, truckers are significantly overlooked when it comes to safety rights in an inherently dangerous profession. The trucking industry just isn't an attractive employment option among young people, primarily due to long hours and a lack of overall protection.

Why We Shouldn't Excuse NFL Players

Posted by Magnolia on January 2, 2020 at 4:50 PM

Although it has decreased slightly in popularity over the last decade, football remains America's favorite sport amongst U.S. adults. Millions of spectators attend National Football League games, and millions more watch them on television. The league itself has enjoyed a 5% increase in television ratings in 2019, and last year brought in $3.71 billion in advertising revenue, an increase from 2017's total of $3.58 billion.

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Why Some Individuals Choose Homelessness Over Receiving Shelter from Religious Organizations

Posted by jhamilton on December 30, 2019 at 1:49 PM

Homelessness plagues the lives of hundreds of thousands of people daily. The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that at least 550,000 Americans experience homelessness a night, and in a single year 1.4 million spend time in shelters. This is a dire issue because according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, at least 700 people die from hypothermia annually.

Seeing as temperatures are dropping, it's a good time to begin thinking about how to find solutions to the issue of homelessness in America. A prevalent approach that shelters have been taking is getting volunteers and outreach workers to encourage people sleeping rough to head over to shelters. Surprisingly, many of these individuals tend to refuse a place to sleep, especially when the help is extended from a religious shelter.

This raises questions about why many homeless people aren't keen on receiving help from religious shelters and what can be done about it. The solution may require looking deeper at the perceptions, attitudes, and values that are held by the homeless about religious shelters. It may also be worth exploring whether or not these religious shelters are sensitive enough to the unique challenges and needs of the homeless.

The Struggles of the Homeless

To understand why people choose to be homeless, it's necessary to first understand the struggles that homeless people face. An estimated 144,000 people who are homeless across the United States also face mental illness, making it one of their most salient struggles. The stress and isolation that accompanies not having adequate housing could also impact their physical and mental health negatively.

Another challenge that the homeless have is the condition of the shelters sometimes being less than conducive. Some of the things they're faced with in many shelters include overcrowding, poor hygiene, a lack of regulation, and not having enough personal space. Such challenges can be off-putting for homeless individuals who are already battling personal issues like declining mental health, deteriorating physical health, or addiction.

Shelters also tend to have barriers that sometimes don't take the vulnerabilities and complex needs of homeless people into consideration and keep them stuck in a cycle of poverty. Good examples of such barriers include not being able to receive help if you're intoxicated, not being offered secure treatment, or not having anywhere to store their belongings while they work. Another challenge for many homeless people is that most shelters are communal spaces which means they don't have privacy or personal space.

Why Is Shelter Refused?

A core reason they may refuse accommodation from religious shelters, in particular, could be because of a fear of being judged. The National Coalition for the Homeless has found that 16% of the population is battling severe mental illnesses while others are struggling with drug addictions. Reasons such as these could make individuals choose to be homeless as they're under the assumption that the religious beliefs of such shelters will be imposed on them.

As with most individuals, homeless people value independence as well as the right to make their own choices. When being approached by volunteers from religious shelters, it may feel as though they're bartering their freedom for support and a place to stay. As a result, they may refuse shelter as they'd rather stay in their zone where they can retain their peace, sense of identity, and not feel judged.

Further reason that shelter may be refused is because of bad past experiences with shelters. It is key to remember that these are vulnerable people who are likely to have a history of bad experiences already, so one more could worsen the state of their mental health. Instead of moral lessons, they often need healthcare professionals who respect their independence and meet their specific mental health needs

Possible Solutions

Religious shelters should attempt to reverse negative stereotypes by ensuring the beliefs and individuality of homeless people is always respected. It may also help if volunteers use relationship building tactics such as talking to them about past encounters with religious shelters and seeing if they can offer them better alternatives. Providing people without a home a range of options and non-religious solutions could help them feel empowered as opposed to children in need of help.

Policies that make it mandatory for shelters to partner with one another could help create a more coordinated approach to tackling homelessness. Putting cohesive information-sharing structures in place could also make it easier to house individuals, regulate, address complaints, and deal with overcrowding. Shelters should also collaborate with social workers, healthcare providers, and housing providers to offer a range of services that will help people get back on their feet.

The lack of personal space was another major challenge, so providing individual rooms or permanent housing for individuals is a solution that could encourage them to accept help. A bonus is that this could reduce the cost of homelessness which a 2006 study by the Denver Housing First Collaborative says would take the cost from $43,239 down to $11,694 per person annually in the city of Denver alone. By shelters allowing the homeless to retain their autonomy and individuality without offering a moral compass, they may be able to get more off the streets.

As charitable people, it is our duty to make everyone feel loved despite their struggles or shortcomings. As the winter season kicks into gear, we should seek to extend a helping hand to those in need. This helping hand must come with a reassurance that our only motives are to offer warm shelter and non-judgmental support.

How Lawmakers Are Addressing the Impact of Addiction on American Families

Posted by jhamilton on December 10, 2019 at 9:11 AM

Addiction isn't something a person suffers in isolation. When one person suffers from addiction, it can affect the people around them in negative ways. Whether it be alcohol or drugs, addiction can disrupt family structures and result in children being uprooted from the home.


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