Thursday, September 6, 2018

Local Warehouse Workers File Complaint for Extreme Heat at Work

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 3:33 PM


Employers working in a metal warehouse here with no air conditioning filed a complaint last week against their employer with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for what they say are extremely hot working conditions.

At XPO Logistics’ Verizon warehouse here, workers claim to have experienced “instances of extreme heat leading to dizziness, dehydration, and fainting,” according to the complaint. During a recent three-day period, the heat index near the warehouse exceeded OSHA’s “extreme caution” threshold during the majority of working hours, workers said.

Lakeisha Nelson, one of the employees, said she’s suffered from heat stress multiple times during her four years working at the warehouse. The first incident occurred in 2015 when Nelson allegedly fainted due to dehydration. Two years later, Nelson said she had to be rushed to the hospital for severe muscle cramps caused by dehydration. Most recently, Nelson said dizziness and nausea forced her to stop working.

“The working conditions at XPO are terrifying and making us sick,” Nelson said. “Think back to the hottest day this summer and what it felt like to be outside. Now crank it up 20 degrees and think of yourself doing back-breaking work with little ventilation, no fresh air, and no relief for hours and hours.

“Instead of offering electrolyte popsicles and half-hearted warnings about heat, the company should commit to providing breaks that don’t impact our production quotas, water, and medical attention so we’re not at risk of fainting during the average workday.”

On another occasion, an employee suffering from heat illness was allegedly penalized for visiting a doctor during work hours.

The claims are under investigation by OSHA, who could issue citations or financial penalties for the company's violations of standards or regulations.

This comes after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed complaints on behalf of two female employees at XPO’s Disney warehouse here in June. One of the women claimed her supervisor made sexual passes at her, and on one occasion tried to kiss her. The other woman alleges that female employees were often pushed around by a general manager, who went unpunished.

This year alone, women at XPO’s three warehouses in Memphis have had a total of 12 complaints filed on their behalf by the EEOC. Complaints include reports of supervisers groping, grabbing, and making sexual comments.

XPO Logistics, a $15 billion company, packages and distributes products for major brands, such as, Verison, Nike, Disney, and Home Depot.

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Report: State Historical Commission Lacks Legal Training for Statue Removal Laws

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 1:26 PM


A new report says Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) members lack the legal training to properly administer the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (THPA) and were left without a way to handle the media during the Memphis statue removal process.

An August audit by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office found that commissioners failed to “analyze its legal and administrative needs” for administering the THPA. The law bans relocation or removal of historical items on public property without a waiver from the THC.

The THC is “administratively attached” to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). While some commissioners informally asked for the assistance of TDEC lawyers through the Memphis statue-removal process, the THC failed to formally ask for the department’s help, the report says.

”Without the services provided by (TDEC’s) Office of General Counsel, the commission would not be able to fulfill its duties under the Heritage Protection Act,” according to the audit.

  • Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

New commissioners are given an introductory handbook, the audit says, which has a section about the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act. But that’s about it.

“However, commission staff stated that they do not have the legal expertise to give commissioners training on legal aspects of the waiver process,” reads the report.

For this, the comptroller recommends formal training for all THC members.

”Members should have some training on legal aspects of their actions, as well as opportunities to ask questions about processes that are unfamiliar to them” reads the audit.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that THC and TDEC have no formal contract to bind them. The last agreement was signed in 1987. So, THC has no standing to demand help from the department, according to the audit. This became important during the Memphis statue-removal process.

The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park.
”In recent months, the commission experienced increased media attention as a result of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act,” reads the audit. “Simultaneously, [TDEC] management decided to stop providing the commission communication services, including press releases, and media handling in 2017.

“Without a formal contract, the commission was left with no grounds to protest the department’s decision to stop the services that the commission needed.”

For all of this, the comptroller recommends a new contract for the two agencies. Apparently, that is just what they’re doing. The old agreement "no longer captures the scope of service and work provided to the commission by the department,” according to TDEC. “Conversations are currently in progress” on a new agreement, THC said.

TDEC has also now committed three attorneys to assist the THC.


The audit also found the THC lacks proper oversight of 14 historical sites across Tennessee.

THC contracts that oversight to various nonprofits organizations. The audit found none of the organizations have disaster plans for their sites. Only five of them could show proof of insurance.

Only half of them have inventory lists of historic artifacts. Some that do have such lists are out of date.

“Specifically, we found that one inventory list was dated 1986 without indication of a more current list,” reads the audit. “In another case, we could not determine whether the inventory list was current as it was missing the date altogether.“

Without such lists, ”the historic site operators do not know what they have and would not know if an item was lost.”

THC management said “the commission maintains proper oversight.” The agreements with the nonprofits are not required by law, it said, and was advised to keep them informal by TDEC attorneys. But the commission will now make the agreements formal contracts, it said.

The agency said its nonprofit partners are now required to attend an annual meeting and enroll in professional museum programs. New entrance signs at all the sites all bear the THC name and logo to let guests know the sites are state-owned.

As for the lack of information in the files from the nonprofits, THC said it has only one staff member to oversee, 17 sites, 110 buildings, the allocation of maintenance funds, capital projects, and review the adminstration of the sites.

But THC said it is now gathering more information from the nonprofits.

Restaurateur Bud Chittom Has Died

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 9:49 AM

Bud Chittom (center) receiving his brass note on Beale Street in 2011.
  • Bud Chittom (center) receiving his brass note on Beale Street in 2011.

Memphis restaurateur Bud Chittom has passed away, according to numerous sources. He was 67.

Chittom opened about 50 restaurants in Memphis, including Blues City Cafe and Earnestine & Hazel's. Chittom's work earned him a brass note on Beale Street in 2011.

Downtown Memphis Commission/Beale Street Management Statement

"Bud Chittom was a legend," reads a statement from the Downtown Memphis Commission and Beale Street management. "He had a catalytic impact on Beale and was a larger than life presence in Downtown Memphis.

"Bud was not just a long-time business owner on Beale Street and a Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame awardee, he was also a pioneer who contributed so much of his life to making Memphis a great city.

"We believe we speak for all of Downtown when we say we will forever miss his particular brand of storytelling. RIP Bud Chittom."

Chittom's brass note on Beale Street calls him "a man you don't meet everyday."

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Here's what the Flyer wrote about Chittom when he got that brass note in 2011:  

Club owner Bud Chittom got a brass note on Beale Street Tuesday in recognition of his efforts over the past 16 years and in celebration of his 60th birthday.

Kevin Kane, head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Chittom has grown his businesses at the western end of Beale Street, including Blues City Cafe, by 1200 percent.

"His philosophy is that if we're not making money then we need to create more revenue," said Kane.

Chittom, who has opened approximately 50 restaurants in Memphis, mainly on Beale Street and at Overton Square, thanked his wife and children, his longtime business partners, Beale Street promoters Mike Glenn and Preston Lamm, and former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton who was there for the party.

"They say it takes six to bury you," said Chittom in his characteristic drawl, noting that about ten times that many people came to the celebration.

Here's a video of Chittom playing on Beale Street on that 60th birthday:

Many have honored Chittom on social media as the news of his death spread Thursday:

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