Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Teamsters fight for pregnant women in US and Canada

Teamsters want to make sure pregnant women are treated with fairness at work.

In Canada, Teamsters have taken up the cause of a pregnant rail worker who was sent home without pay. In the United States, the Teamsters are lobbying Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

In both cases, Teamsters are working to make sure all pregnant women are given lighter, safer assignments at work if they need them.

Canadian Teamsters are fighting on behalf of our sister Marie-Eve Ethier, a Canadian National yardmaster and conductor, who was recently pregnant. She  assembles trains in the rail yard. That's dangerous for a pregnant woman and her colleagues -- she could experience nausea or her blood pressure could drop. Her doctor advised her to take a preventive withdrawal.

Sister Ethier asked Canadian National to assign her tasks that were less risky to her health. Instead, the employer sent her home.

The Teamsters took up her cause. Said Teamsters Canada President Robert Bouvier,
Why would women who fall under Quebec law be entitled to compensation and those subject to federal legislation not? Although this is admittedly a complicated case, it doesn't change the fact that there's injustice here and we at Teamsters believe that as soon as there's injustice, it needs to be rectified immediately.
Teamsters Canada explains:
√Čthier did not qualify for compensation provided for under provincial law because her employer is subject to federal law. She was thus deprived of income for six months due to this loophole... 
Since the Canada Labour Code provides no compensation in such a case, the Teamsters are asking that a certain paragraph of Quebec's Act respecting occupational health and safety also apply to workers whose employers are governed by the Canada Labour Code.
So the Teamsters sent a legal team to the Commission des lesions professionnelles (CLP), Quebec's Committee on Occupational Injuries. They asked that a certain paragraph of Quebec's law on occupational health and safety also apply to workers whose employers are governed by the Canada Labour Code.

If the Teamsters don't prevail, Bouvier vowed to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It's not just Ethier who would benefit. So would many Canadian women who work in transportation -- air, rail, road and maritime.

U.S. Teamsters are fighting the same fight. The Teamsters have signed a letter with 10 other labor organizations urging Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The letter states:
All too often, non-union and union pregnant workers’ requests for workplace accommodations are denied and these workers are fired, forced to go on unpaid leave or quit rather than jeopardize their pregnancies.  Out of economic necessity, some women continue to perform strenuous work duties that compromise their maternal health - when a simple accommodation can be made: drinking water, access to bathrooms, a stool to sit on or less strenuous lifting. 
 Countless stories tell how women are pushed out or fired due to pregnancy.  Once fired, they lose wages and health care – at a time when financial security is needed the most.  Take for example, the pregnant retail worker in Indiana who was denied light duty and as a result suffered pregnancy complications. Ultimately, she was fired for requesting a reasonable accommodation.  
According to the Labor Project for Working Families, the bill would:
...make it unmistakably clear that pregnant women cannot be forced off the job simply because they need temporary reasonable accommodations.
The fight for working families never ends...