If Julio Hernandez didn’t contract the coronavirus at his job, then his children don’t know where he got it. NEW YORK — Ahead of Labor Day, unions representing millions across several working-class sectors are threatening to authorize work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid calls for concrete measures that address racial injustice.In a statement first shared with The Associated Press, labor leaders who represent teachers, auto workers, truck drivers and clerical staff, among others, signaled a willingness Friday to escalate protest tactics to force local and federal A survey done by a company called Upwork shows the average American has saved about $2,000 since March by also not commuting to work. All the city news you can use. With a focus on well-being and connection, Bike to Work Week highlights physical and mental health benefits of riding a bike.
If Julio Hernandez didn’t contract the coronavirus at his job, then his children don’t know where he got it.
Hernandez stopped seeing his family when the pandemic began, said his son, Cesar Hernandez. The father still had to grocery shop, but other than that and a few other necessary errands, he left home only to go to his job at the Sportsman’s Warehouse distribution and e-commerce center in an industrial park in western Salt Lake City, the son said.
“I’m like 95% sure he got it at work,” Cesar Hernandez said, “because when I talked to him over the phone, he would tell me we had two or three people come up positive at Sportsman’s Warehouse.”
Actually, there were 14 cases of the coronavirus there from June 9 through July 13, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department. Julio Hernandez is the only known fatality.
He died July 8 at Jordan Valley Medical Center. He was 56.
His children have complaints about what they say Sportsman’s Warehouse didn’t do to protect him. They also say the company owes his estate now.
Cesar Hernandez and his sister, Wendy Payan, say they have not heard from the company since their father died. They have not received a check for any wages or vacation time he’s owed.
If Julio Hernandez had a 401(k) or death benefits with Sportsman’s Warehouse, they haven’t received those either. The family took donations on GoFundMe to pay for his funeral and so Payan, who lost her job earlier in the pandemic, could travel from her home in Las Vegas to attend her father’s services and clean out his apartment.
No Sportsman’s Warehouse representatives returned The Salt Lake Tribune’s messages inquiring about Julio Hernandez or the outbreak at the Salt Lake City site. A letter on the company’s website from CEO Jon Barker said Sportsman’s Warehouse was protecting employees and customers by following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“That’s the problem with these immunity laws,” said Teneille Brown, a torts and health law professor at the University of Utah. “They really place the cost and the risk of opening the economy on private individuals.”
Hernandez family members could still file suit, Brown said, but they would have to overcome hurdles.
El Salvador was in the midst of its civil war when Julio Hernandez left there at age 22 with his wife and oldest child — Payan. The small family immigrated to the United States.
Julio Hernandez’s wife soon decided to return to El Salvador. He returned there for a visit, met another woman and Cesar was born. Cesar eventually joined his father and his sister in the United States.
After living in Arizona, Hernandez lived for 29 years in La Puente, Calif. He moved to Utah on Independence Day 2014 to be with a woman he was dating, Cesar Hernandez said. The relationship didn’t work out, but Julio Hernandez remained in Utah, living in West Valley City. He began working for Sportsman’s Warehouse soon after his move.
The Sportsman’s Warehouse website lists 105 stores across the country selling recreational and hunting and fishing merchandise. Company headquarters are in Midvale. The retailer fills online orders from the distribution and e-commerce center where Julio Hernandez worked.
When Emma Mota arrived at the west Salt Lake City facility in September of last year, Julio Hernandez was in receiving and trained new employees. Later, he moved to the department that helps fill and ship orders.
“He was always happy,” Mota said. “He always had jokes. He always was motivating people.
When the pandemic began, management at the Sportsman’s Warehouse center staggered some shifts, checked employees for symptoms before beginning their shifts and told them to keep their distance from one another and to wipe down their workstations, Mota said. But, in June, the time when the Salt Lake County Health Department says the outbreak at the facility began, management said little about the employees who suddenly weren’t at work, Mota said.
“The company would never say anything to us,” Mota said. “It was just rumors that people would say” a missing employee had COVID-19.
“When Julio tested positive,” Mota added, “they didn’t say anything to anybody.”
Mota left Sportsman’s Warehouse to take a new job two days before Julio Hernandez died.
Cesar Hernandez, who moved to Utah after his father did, doesn’t believe lack of information was the only shortcoming at Sportsman’s Warehouse. He said his father told him management sometimes forgot to take temperatures or didn’t take them until his dad was well into his shift.
Precisely what Sportsman’s Warehouse did to protect employees would be critical if the Hernandez family wanted to sue. While SB3007, the bill passed in May, offers broad protections for employers and property owners, the statute says they can still be sued if they commit “willful misconduct,” “reckless infliction of harm” or “intentional infliction of harm.”
Those would be high standards for a family to prove, said Brown, the law professor, even higher than the negligence a plaintiff would normally have to prove in a workplace injury case.
“They’d have to show,” Brown said, “the employer was more than just careless; they were reckless.”
The bill’s main sponsors, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, was traveling with family last week and unavailable for an interview. The sponsor in the other chamber, Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, did not return Tribune messages last week.
In debates on the bill during a legislative special session, Cullimore argued the bill was needed to protect employers from frivolous lawsuits as the economy opened.
“There have been a rash of businesses that are nervous about these claims,” Cullimore said, “and there have even been threats of these claims as the economy reconstitutes.”
Brown said families like Julio Hernandez’s might be able to find some relief in the Utah Constitution. It has a provision guaranteeing access to courts. SB3007 probably violates that clause, Brown contends.
But that also means a plaintiff would have to wage an extra legal fight.
“Now you’re not just suing for wrongful death,” Brown said. “You have to mount this huge legal challenge to the constitutionality of the law.”
Brown sees one more problem for workers — proving they got sick at work. Sickness from a virus isn’t as cut and dried a workers’ compensation case as, for example, a forklift running over an employee on a loading dock.
“I’m certain [the employer] would challenge the causation,” Brown said, “and say you can’t prove he got sick at work.”
Julio Hernandez’s symptoms were slow to develop, his son said. They started June 26 with a sore throat and feeling tired. A fever and body chills arrived July 2.
The next day, Julio Hernandez’s rental property owner called Cesar Hernandez, saying his father wasn’t answering his door. Cesar Hernandez called and his dad answered. Julio Hernandez said he was having trouble breathing. The son called an ambulance.
Wendy Payan provided copies of her father’s medical records from Jordan Valley Hospital. An intake form noted that Julio Hernandez had not yet been tested for coronavirus, though his co-workers had been sick.
The 35-year-old Payan contracted the virus in March and recovered. She spoke by phone to staff at Jordan Valley Hospital shortly after her father arrived there, and they were optimistic he would survive. That changed when Julio Hernandez didn’t improve.
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Payan said she last spoke to her father on the Fourth of July. He couldn’t catch his breath, but he mumbled out that he loved Payan and that she had to take care of her three daughters.
“Basically, he told me goodbye,” Payan said. “And I told him don’t talk like that.”
Payan said she would sue if she could. Foremost, she wants other Sportsman’s Warehouse employees to be safe.
“They cannot return him back to me,” Payan said. “I just want other people to be safe and be aware this is really real. It’s really important the company take care of their employees.”
Cesar Hernandez stood outside the site where his father worked at lunchtime on a recent Saturday. Employees in groups of three or four were sitting on the grass between the sidewalk and the parking lot. Cesar Hernandez worried about them.
“My family went through this,” he said, “and I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”
Author: By Nate Carlisle · Published: 7 hours ago Updated: 2 hours ago
Unions threaten work stoppages amid calls for racial justice
NEW YORK — Ahead of Labor Day, unions representing millions across several working-class sectors are threatening to authorize work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid calls for concrete measures that address racial injustice.
In a statement first shared with The Associated Press, labor leaders who represent teachers, auto workers, truck drivers and clerical staff, among others, signaled a willingness Friday to escalate protest tactics to force local and federal lawmakers to take action on policing reform and systemic racism. They said the walkouts, if they were to move forward with them, would last for as long as needed.
“The status quo — of police killing Black people, of armed white nationalists killing demonstrators, of millions sick and increasingly desperate — is clearly unjust, and it cannot continue,” the statement says. It was signed by several branches of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and affiliates of the National Education Association.
The broader labor movement has been vocal since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes during an arrest over counterfeit money. The death of Floyd in Minneapolis set off an unprecedented surge of protests and unrest from coast to coast this summer. In July, organized labor staged a daylong strike with workers from the service industry, fast-food chains and the gig economy to call out the lack of coronavirus pandemic protections for essential workers, who are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.
Now, in the wake of the August shooting of Jacob Blake, who was critically wounded by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the union leaders say they are following the lead of professional athletes who last week staged walkouts over the shooting. Basketball, baseball and tennis league games had to be postponed. Some athletes resumed game play only after having talks with league officials over ways to support the push for policing reforms and to honor victims of police and vigilante violence.
“They remind us that when we strike to withhold our labor, we have the power to bring an unjust status quo to a grinding halt,” the union leaders said in the statement.
“We echo the call to local and federal government to divest from the police, to redistribute the stolen wealth of the billionaire class, and to invest in what our people need to live in peace, dignity, and abundance: universal health care and housing, public jobs programs and cash assistance, and safe working conditions,” the statement reads.
Among the supportive unions are ones representing Wisconsin public school teachers who, ahead of the mid-September start of the regular school year, urged state legislators to take on policing reforms and systemic racism.
“We stand in solidarity with Jacob Blake and his family, and all communities fighting to defend Black lives from police and vigilante violence,” Milwaukee Teacher’s Association president Amy Mizialko told the AP.
“Are we striking tomorrow? No,” said Racine Educator United president Angelina Cruz, who represents teachers in a community that abuts Kenosha. “Are we in conversation with our members and the national labor movement about how we escalate our tactics to stop fascism and win justice? Yes.”
The Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, which represents several hundreds of professionals working at more than 25 civil rights groups and think tank organizations, told the AP it signed onto the union statement because “the fights for workers’ rights, civil rights, and racial justice are inextricably linked.”
At the federal level, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which would ban police use of stranglehold maneuvers and end qualified immunity for officers, among other reforms. The measure awaits action in the Senate.
A Republican-authored police reform bill, introduced in June by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, failed a procedural vote in the Senate because Democrats felt the measure didn’t go far enough to address officer accountability.
Meanwhile, officials who serve on governing bodies in more than a dozen major U.S. cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and Austin, Texas, have voted to defund their police departments and reallocate the money to mental health, homelessness and education services.
Although some unions have a history of excluding workers on the basis of gender and race, the marriage between the racial justice and labor movements goes back decades. That alliance was most prominently on display during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which featured the visions of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John Lewis and was organized by A. Philip Randolph, a Black icon of the labor movement.
Today, Black workers are more likely to be unionized than any other segment of the workforce as a result of decades of collaboration between labor and civil rights activists, said New York University professor and civil rights historian Thomas Sugrue.
“That connection has only intensified because of the importance of workers of color, particularly African Americans, in the labor movement,” Sugrue said.
Public and private employers are faced with a “Which side are you on?” moment due to growing support for the BLM movement, said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and a leading organizer in the Movement for Black Lives, a national coalition of 150 Black-led organizations.
“If I was a decision-maker that was considering whether or not to meet the demands of the unions, I would be scared,” Mitchell said. “This movement is spreading. We’ve been on the streets consistently, we’re building on the electoral front, and now we’re seeing this conversation at the highest levels of labor.”
Author: Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
Economist: Americans save big not commuting to work, savings put to good use
Some workers have saved a ton of money during the pandemic thanks to many not having to commute. In fact, it’s reported that the total savings by Americans not having to commute is upwards of $90 billion.
On average, workers across the country usually have a work commute of about 50 minutes.
“I don’t miss the commute at all,” said Raymond Kelly, who is now working from home. “It was a little drive on both sides and a boat in the middle.”
Kelly is an engineer in Washington state, and for eight years, his commute was far longer than the average workers’.
Every day, he commuted from Poulsbo, Washington to Muckilteo. First, he drove 30 minutes to park and catch a ferry in Kingston, Washington. After the 30 minutes ferry ride, he got into his second car parked on that side of the Puget Sound and then drove another 30 minutes to finally get to his job. In total, his commute was about three to four hours a day. However, since his company began allowing people to work from home in March, his commute is now just two or three minutes. It’s the walk from his bed to a small office he created in his home.
“I think it has been huge. It is almost like getting a piece of life back,” said Kelly.
Kelly is saving at least $500 a month not commuting to work, and most Americans are seeing a similar savings. A survey done by a company called Upwork shows the average American has saved about $2,000 since March by also not commuting to work.
“The total savings since March comes out to $90 billion,” said Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Upwork.
“In the long run, the money you save on this is the money you spend elsewhere,” added Ozimek. “What we know from the survey is it consumers are generally spending more online. They are spending more at grocery stores. They are spending more those way and also are saving more.”
A new poll by the National Opinion Research Center shows 45 percent of Americans are putting the money saved on commuting into their personal savings, while 26 percent are paying down debt at a faster rate than Americans did pre-pandemic.
Long term, as more employers signal remote work as a more permanent way to work, economists believe the money saved commuting will be put towards things like people eating out more and traveling. Both would help struggling sectors of the economy and industries struggling the most right now.
As for Kelly, he’s been spending his commute savings on home-improvement projects.
Copyright 2020 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Urban Reads: Is Remote Work Sustainable?
Every day at The Overhead Wire we sort through over 1,500 news items about cities and share the best ones with our email list. At the end of the week, we take some of the most popular stories and share them with Urban Milwaukee readers. They are national (or international) links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.
Continued remote work won’t be sustainable: Research at Northwestern University that looked at 350 cities around the country found that location is crucial for innovation. Startups and other innovative companies work best when part of a larger diverse community and while individuals have seen productivity stay stable during the pandemic, it is in part because of previous innovation that is harder to foster away from team. (Hyejin Youn | Fast Company)
Cayahouga River is burning again: The Cayahouga River in Ohio reached a milestone in 2019 of becoming clean enough to eat fish caught in its waters. 50 years earlier, it caught fire eleven times between 1968 and 1969, generating public outrage and inspiring the Clean Water Act to limit water pollution. However, it caught fire again last week which should serve as a reminder of how environmental feats are quickly being undone. (Wes Siler | Outside Online)
Transit capital costs database created: To determine why capital costs for constructing rapid transit in the United States are so high, a team of researchers at the Marron Institute has put together a database of transit capital costs for the 11,000 km (6,835 miles) of projects that have been constructed since the 1990s in countries around the world. (Alon Levy | Pedestrian Observations)
Los Angeles could make transit free for riders: An internal LA Metro task force is looking to implement a pilot project that makes the transit network fare free. LA Metro’s CEO Phil Washington said at a recent board meeting that the pilot would target BIPOC communities and those most impacted by the pandemic. But while the idea is of interest for many advocates, the spectre of a 20% service cut also looms over the decision. (Joe Linton | Streetsblog LA)
The COVID City: The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionally affected communities based on their location and income. Not dense cities per say, but overcrowded and marginalized areas have been hardest hit as socioeconomic factors are determining contagion risk. As cities continue to be the hub for innovation, they will survive, but they must make efforts to support a healthy population through targeted interventions that help everyone. (Ian Goldin and Robert Muggah | Project Syndicate)
Quote of the Week
Please, please, please pass this bill, and I’m going to go finish feeding my daughter.
-California Assembly member Buffy Wicks on the Assembly floor fighting for a housing bill after being denied the ability to vote by proxy just one month after giving birth.
This week on the podcast, Professor Julian Agyeman of Tufts discusses the importance of Just Sustainabilities.
Want more links to read? Visit The Overhead Wire and signup. (http://dtrnsfr.us/2iA8Yas)
Author: Jeff Wood
Kudos and kicks: Benefits of biking to work; tribute to SWFL pioneers
Kudos to the Naples Pathways Coalition and Blue Zones Project SWFL.
The two groups are be hosting helmet fitting certification class on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at NCH North on Immokalee Road.
With a focus on well-being and connection, Bike to Work Week highlights physical and mental health benefits of riding a bike.
The Naples Pathways Coalition is partnering with Blue Zones Project SWFL, Naples Velo, Collier Area Transit, Naples Botanical Garden, and Fit & Fuel Cafe to treat commuter cyclists to some extra love on Sept. 22.
Volunteers are needed at the following locations to provide food, drinks and safety materials. Cyclists who need them can receive free fitted helmets and lights at:
- Collier Area Transit Transfer Station, Collier County Government Center.
- Naples Botanical Garden.
- Fit & Fuel Café.
- Zocalo Park, Immokalee.
Many bicycle commuters are not aware the “bicycle” rules of the road. Volunteers can provide education and equipment that will and save lives.
Kudos to Southwest Florida’s pioneers and to keeping their history alive.
The Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City is featuring an exhibit, Trading Posts of South Florida, a historical overview of the people and places that shaped our region’s commerce and culture at the turn of the last century. Trading Posts of South Florida will be on display now through Nov. 28, at 105 W. Broadway in Everglades City.
Before there was a road connecting Florida’s coasts or railroads made their way to some of the larger towns on the frontier, trading posts and general stores throughout South Florida were doing a brisk business in pelts, plumes, and hides supplied by indigenous hunters and pioneer settlers. In turn, these local commodities fed the fashion trends in major cities like feathered ladies’ hats and alligator skin shoes and luggage. As populations grew and the landscape changed, so did the ways goods were bought and sold.
Trading Posts of South Florida focuses on locations in Collier County (the Storter General Store in Everglades City, the McKinney and Smallwood Stores in Chokoloskee, Brown’s Landing in Immokalee, and the W.D. Collier store on Marco Island). The exhibit also explores other stores further afield that were equally important to regional trade during the early days of statehood.
For more information about Museum of the Everglades’ Trading Posts of South Florida, please contact the museum at 239-252-5026 or visit www.colliermuseums.com/exhibits.
Kudos to the Otsego Bay Foundation.
The Fort Myers Beach organization is set to resume waterfront tours of the town’s working waterfront.
The shrimp fleet of San Carlos Island offloads more Florida pinks than anywhere else in Florida, says a study by the University of Florida.
Pink Shrimp to Fort Myers Beach is like Alaska King Crab to Alaska. You won’t find shrimp boats in the Deadliest Catch, but you can get up close and personal to the local shrimping industry with the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center’s Working Waterfront three-hour guided tour. The tours will be offered every Wednesday from 9 a.m. until noon, weather permitting beginning Oct. 7.
Participation is limited and CDC guidelines for COVID-19 will be followed. Reservations are required, call 239-765-8101 for details or register online at http://www.ostegobay.org/waterfront-tours/.
Founded in 1991, the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center is a member supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. The mission of the Ostego Bay Foundation, Inc. is to promote the understanding, preservation and enhancement of Southwest Florida’s unique marine environment through education, research and community involvement.
(Brent Batten wrote this for the Naples Daily News editorial board.)