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Fran Schreiberg

Kazan Law Attorney Helps Pass Sweeping Worker Safety Law

worker safety lawThanks to over a decade of hard work by Kazan Law Of Counsel and pro bono attorney Fran Schreiberg and others dedicated to worker safety, California just became the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive toxic protection worker safety law.  It will protect workers from toxins in the workplace as new scientific information about the harm they cause comes to light.

Calling the new worker safety law “groundbreaking,” Fran excitedly reviewed for me in an email when California Governor Jerry Brown officially signed the law, why it is so important.

“It is the first law in the country that requires manufacturers and those in the distribution chain to inform a government agency exactly where they are shipping a toxic material or a mixture containing a toxic material, including the quantity, and the proportions, when there is new scientific or medical information that the substance may pose a hazard in a work place and potentially poses a serious new or unrecognized health hazard, including but not limited to, cancer, reproductive or developmental harm, organ system impairment, or death,” Fran explained.

This information will make it possible for the Hazardous Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) to target workers known to be at risk, thereby protecting employers from increased liability and employees’ health from harmful exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace.

The downside is that the worker safety law does not take effect until January 2016. Fran explained, “The delay is because HESIS will be asking for the preceding year’s information, and it was necessary to give industry notice so they would have customer information available.”

Also the new law does not cover all industrial chemicals, just ones that have been newly found by scientific research to be toxic. But given the power of industry to conceal and cover up misdeeds that put people’s health and the environment at risk – as we in the asbestos litigation field know only too well – the passage of this worker safety law is a major step to be celebrated.

The new toxic protection law formerly was known as Senate Bill 193. It was brought forward by State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel). But Fran and other labor advocates worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years to put together all the necessary information and explain it to other legislators.

Fran reminded those who worked on the lobbying effort, “The initial version of this bill – AB 816 by then- Assembly Member Sally Lieber – was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2005.  But with your support, we refused to give up.”

“Now it’s over to HESIS to use this power and save lives!!  I am certain they will do that.”

Workers Rights Summer Brown Bag Series

workers rightsOur mission at Kazan Law to defend those harmed by workplace asbestos exposure keeps us focused on worker safety and workers’ rights.  Manufacturing may have declined in the United States in recent years but blue collar work – whether in agriculture, automotive or service industries – has not. A 2012 survey finds that in California blue collar workers outnumbered white collar workers 61% to 39%.  For that same year, Worksafe, a California nonprofit that Kazan Law has supported for many years, reported that 451,500 of those blue collar workers were injured or made ill at their jobs. An additional 339 were killed.

Therefore we feel that it is important to educate our summer asbestos law clerks as well as new employees of the firm who have recently graduated not just about the law and our practice, but also about our deep commitment to justice for all and defending workers’ rights to safety and health on the job as well as other important workers’ rights.  One of the ways we do this is with a weekly brown bag lunch series throughout the summer. The summer law clerks and any staff who choose to attend bring their lunch at noon to our conference room. There we provide cookies and beverages along with short documentary films and/or in-person talks from administrative law judges, attorneys, union representatives, and others involved in advocating for workers, including attorneys on our staff.

This inspiring series is coordinated by Fran Schreiberg, Of Counsel staff attorney who has made a career safeguarding workers rights on a state and federal level.

Topics include:

Meet Arthur Bryant and Sarah Belton of Public Justice Bryant, President of Public Justice and the Public Justice Foundation, has won major victories and established new precedents in several areas of the law, including constitutional law, toxic torts, civil rights, consumer protection, and mass torts.  The National Law Journal named him one of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in America. Sarah Beltonjoined the Public Justice Oakland office in June 2013 as the first Cartwright-Baron Attorney. She was previously an Equal Justice Works fellow and a staff attorney at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco, California.

Report Back from Dhaka, Bangladesh Protecting Bangladesh Garment Workers from Factory Fires and Building Collapses with Garrett Brown, MPH, CIH. Brown worked for Cal/OSHA for 20 years as a compliance officer and Headquarters staff, and is now full-time volunteer Coordinator of the Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network.

Making a Killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and Global Tobacco Addiction with discussion by Ted Pelletier This half-hour film shows how the tobacco giant uses its political power, size and marketing skill to spread tobacco addiction internationally, leaving in its wake a trail of death and disease. Pelletier, Of Counsel to the firm, earlier in his career handled the first two appeals v. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds in California, and will share some litigation-specific stories of those cases and how they played a part in cracking Tobacco’s long-asserted lack of liability.

Those Who Know Don’t Tell A powerful documentary about the history of the struggle to rid the workplace of occupational hazards, including asbestos.

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