International Coffee Day is October 1st. The exact origins of International Coffee Day is unknown according to the Wikipedia. But an event that was first promoted in Japan in 1983 by the All Japan Coffee Association is one of the first references to it. United States "National Coffee Day" was mentioned publicly as early as 2005.The name "International Coffee Day" was first used by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in October of 2009.
And we at the office are huge fans. Kurt is a huge Biggby Coffee fan, which is a regional chain of coffee shops that has been in business since 1995. It started in Lancing Michigan, It has spread through Michigan and Northwest Ohio, but even he didn’t realize until we picked this article it was now through out those two states and ten others as far south as Florida, West to Idaho, and East to New Jersey and the Carolinas. He loves their frozen, Mocha Mocha Lattes. Then again they are essential a frozen espresso and chocolate shake.
And of course we're all hooked on local roaster Bea's Blend. They offer quality freshly roasted organic, fair-trade coffee roasted here in Toledo. We won't repeat the nickname we have used in the past to describe it quickly to others, but we can tell you that's because of how addictively good it is. And for a substance that does alter your mood and body chemistry, caffeine, it's as healthy as you can get.
We always have some coffee brewed and waiting at the office for our team and if not, a very kind client bought us a Keurig machine that can brew you an individual cup if you visit. Has a huge collection of coffee mugs, with Kurt having a few of his favorites from a local comic, the West Wing and an internship with a Member of Congress years ago. And a few years ago, Kurt bought himself, Lisa and a vendor that helps us help clients training and job search help to get back to work, matching travel coffee mugs with Chaos Coordinator, because butt kicking, multitasking, problem solving miracle worker isn’t a job title, just a description.
Lisa is a huge McDonald’s coffee fan. She performs many roles for our firm, from Administrator to head paralegal. On top of that she does some work for our landlord in helping him run our and other buildings he owns in the area. She loves to stop and get one loaded up with five creams. Despite loving her McDonald’s coffee, and not being Catholic, she has adopted the practice of giving up something she loves for Lent as it’s her McDonald’s coffee.
But this post really isn’t about our favorite coffees, coffee shops or mugs. As a way to tie into International Coffee Day, and get your attention, we started there. But really we wanted to talk about how the insurance and business lobbies have used panic about certain high profile cases to justify moves to limit what injured people get, to make business more profitable.
Over the years certain widely publicized cases have been used to scare the public and limit what injured and disabled people can get. But that’s what they are generally, scare tactics. And worse still, these limits, called generally tort reform, really haven’t resulted in insurance premiums dropping for doctors, small business owners, home and car owners, etc. And for instance Kurt calls the compromise that created workers’ compensation in Ohio as one of the first tort reforms out there, when explaining what workers and employers got out of the creation of our system.
The most famous scare tactic, justification for these limits is the infamous McDonald’s Coffee Case. Let us tell you some facts of the real story, with a heavy assist from our brothers and sister of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and an article they published on the subject. Many people have heard that a woman placed a cup of McDonald’s coffee between her legs to add things to it in the car and she suffered so small burns and wanted a fortune for it. From that article, here’s some real facts.
Stella Liebeck, 79 years old, was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car having purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee. After the car stopped, she tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the lid. However, the cup tipped over, pouring scalding hot coffee onto her. She received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body, necessitating hospitalization for eight days, whirlpool treatment for debridement of her wounds, skin grafting, scarring, and disability for more than two years.
Despite these extensive injuries, she offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. However, McDonald’s refused to settle. And made her the greedy scapegoat of public relations offensive and fought her to the bitter end on her case.
When all was said at done at the trial, the jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages -- reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault -- and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. (To put this in perspective, McDonald's revenue from coffee sales alone is in excess of $1.3 million a day.) The trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000. Subsequently, the parties entered a post-verdict settlement.
Now you may ask yourself, how could that out of control jury and judge award her anything let alone that much. Well again, read above, they did reduce everything because yes, yes it really isn’t the brightest move ever to put hot coffee between your legs in car that could be moving any second.
But here are some facts, from Stella’s lawyer, S. Reed Morgan, that the jury heard in the evidence presented at trial:
By corporate specifications, McDonald's sells its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit;
Coffee at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns (the skin is burned away down to the muscle/fatty-tissue layer) in two to seven seconds;
Third-degree burns do not heal without skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in permanent disfigurement, extreme pain and disability of the victim for many months, and in some cases, years
The chairman of the department of mechanical engineering and bio-mechanical engineering at the University of Texas testified that this risk of harm is unacceptable, as did a widely recognized expert on burns, the editor in chief of the leading scholarly publication in the specialty, the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation;
McDonald's admitted that it has known about the risk of serious burns from its scalding hot coffee for more than 10 years -- the risk was brought to its attention through numerous other claims and suits, to no avail;
From 1982 to 1992, McDonald's coffee burned more than 700 people, many receiving severe burns to the genital area, perineum, inner thighs, and buttocks;
Not only men and women, but also children and infants, have been burned by McDonald's scalding hot coffee, in some instances due to inadvertent spillage by McDonald's employees;
At least one woman had coffee dropped in her lap through the service window, causing third-degree burns to her inner thighs and other sensitive areas, which resulted in disability for years;
Witnesses for McDonald's admitted in court that consumers are unaware of the extent of the risk of serious burns from spilled coffee served at McDonald's required temperature;
McDonald's admitted that it did not warn customers of the nature and extent of this risk and could offer no explanation as to why it did not;
McDonald's witnesses testified that it did not intend to turn down the heat -- As one witness put it: “No, there is no current plan to change the procedure that we're using in that regard right now;”
McDonald's admitted that its coffee is “not fit for consumption” when sold because it causes severe scalds if spilled or drunk;
Liebeck's treating physician testified that her injury was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.
Moreover, the Shriner’s Burn Institute in Cincinnati had published warnings to the franchise food industry that its members were unnecessarily causing serious scald burns by serving beverages above 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
In refusing to grant a new trial in the case, Judge Robert Scott called McDonald's behavior “callous.” Moreover, “the day after the verdict, the news media documented that coffee at the McDonald's in Albuquerque [where Liebeck was burned] is now sold at 158 degrees. This will cause third-degree burns in about 60 seconds, rather than in two to seven seconds [so that], the margin of safety has been increased as a direct consequence of this verdict.”
When you hear this little tale of danger to small business, property owners, remember the real facts of this case from witness testimony found credible by a judge and jury of people like you. McDonald’s knew of the dangers of their coffee for 10 years before Stella was hurt. They served it at that temperature to make inferior coffee taste better and make more profits. And in the 10 years leading up to that day, over 700 customers and dozens of employees suffered to that same part of the body as Stella. Why? Because we do sometimes put coffee there to mix in our favorite ingredients. And at those temperatures, it’s impossible to get the coffee off you fast enough to prevent burning.
So, the next time you hear the call of tort reform using this case, or others like it, remember, juries are made up of people like you. Politicians by putting limits on what hurt people can prove they deserve to keep profitable insurance companies, who interestingly tend to give big campaign contributions to their favorites in Columbus and Washington. And those costs go somewhere, usually onto all of us as taxes to pay for Medicare, Medicaid, or in higher medical bills for us due to hospitals and doctors not getting properly paid for their work.
If you ever do get hurt on the job or elsewhere by a defective product or careless person, if at work that can even be you, give us a call. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping workers and the disabled get help. They offer free no cost, obligation initial consultations. And if they don’t handle that kind of case, they know a qualified attorney who does. Call us at 419-244-7885 and let us help guide you to the best outcome in bad situation.
In the United States we actually take the time to celebrate the art and impact of comic books on our culture twice every year. The first Saturday in May, comic book stores around the country celebrate Free Comic Book Day. There are special events, special free comic books handed out only in person on that day, sales, and the like. The lines usually end up out the door and down the block throughout the day.
But then there is a second day. National Comic Book Day is September 25th each year. Like many holidays, there is a lot of debate about when they started, who started them. But the why is not that hard. Telling stories with drawn pictures is not new. It was our first way to tell stories as a species. The oldest known cave paintings were drawn over 64,000 years ago.
The first picture and word comic book as a prototype, “The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck” was released in 1842. But it was the 1930's when comic books took off. The first modern comic book was “Famous Funnies” and released in 1933. In 1938, Superman, one of the oldest, still published characters, made his debut.
In 2015, I took a free online class from the Smithsonian about the history of Superheroes and their impact on their culture. I couldn’t resist for many reasons, but the best was one of the instructors was the absolute legend of modern comic books and superheroes, Stan Lee. And believe me, it doesn’t get much better than to hear one of the people who made this form of entertainment a huge deal, with over One Billion Dollars ($1,000,000,000) per year of just book sales. That doesn’t include all of the merchandise, the movies, TV shows and even the impact they have on our culture.
Now, like my parents, I can tell you that academics were not so impressed with the thought of people studying this phenomena seriously. One of our instructors, Michael Uslan, was the first to get a college to offer credit for the study of the origins, mythology & historical foundation and sociological impact of them. He went to at dean at Indiana University to pitch his class idea, mind you he was a student at the time..
He tells a funny story of an academic panel, including the Dean meeting with him and saying, so young man, I hear you are the one who wants us to teach a class about silly, children’s comic books (yeah, Mom and Dad said something similar to me as a kid). Now Dr. Uslan, asked the Dean if he ever read and enjoyed them. The Dean admitted that like many, he loved the stories of Superman in print, old serial movies, and black and white TV shows. But that had nothing to do with history and mythology.
The young student, later professor, had his in. He asked the Dean why he didn’t think that Superman had a mythological and historical origin. The Dean scoffed. So he the Dean, who confessed that he had read many of those comics cover to cover as a kid. So Michael asked him first to not summarize Superman’s origin for those in the room who hadn’t, but to retell in a few sentences the Biblical story of Moses.
The Dean, not getting the setup, explained how an Egyptian Pharaoh had ordered that the first born of any Hebrew be put to death. To protect their child, Moses’ parents placed him in a wicker basket and sent it adrift on the Nile River. An Egyptian couple then found the basket and raised the child as their own. Moses eventually learned about his actual heritage and went on to become a hero to the Hebrews. And got him to admit that was not only religiously significant to the world’s three largest religions, but a mythological and literary work worthy of college study.
Student, now Dr. Uslan went in for the kill. He asked the Dean as succinctly as he did the Moses story, retell Superman’s origin and story arc. The Dean skeptically started that “The planet Krypton was about to explode, and a scientist and his wife placed their infant son into a little rocket ship and sent him to Earth where he was found by the Kents, who raised him as their own son. When he grew up and learned of his true…”, the Dean stopped, it finally hit him. And he quickly said if he could find a professor to teach such a class he would back it. And so the class came into being.
Now, for me, the appeal, I admit I’ve watched more TV shows and movies than read the books, was the old as time themes of good versus evil. But in the TV and Movie universe my favorite hero has no super powers. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) starting with Iron Man and going into the Avengers movie, as it had been in the comic books, SHIELD was an important part of the government dealing suddenly with aliens, super powered humans, etc.
For the movies SHIELD, the Strategic, Homeland Interdiction, Enforcement and Logistics Division (and if you watch Iron Man, Phil Coulson played by actor Clark Gregg, admits it’s a mouthful to say) is the secret (yeah, every vehicle they have has their logo on it, they have a huge headquarters that would make any US Government Agency green with envy, etc so very secret, agency that keeps the public safe and deals with the mess a bunch of super powered good and bad guys would create.
Phil Coulson is a top agent, one of Director Nick Furry’s top agents, most trusted deputies and former partner. But Phil has no super abilities. He’s just a really good guy, who like me lost a very brave Dad at a very young age. Coulson is willing to and does give his life to stop the villains and protect the every day people.
And you’re saying if you’ve lasted so far, so what does that have to do with being a lawyer who represents injured workers and disabled people Kurt? Well many years ago, a former paralegal came into my office, stared at my collection of pop culture items in my book cases and said, that’s a depressing collection of items, why do you have that in there. And I had my Michael Uslan and the Dean moment.
I asked her why she considered particular ones so depressing. I pointed out Rafiki, from the Lion King, the Battlestar Galactica, and Obi Wan Kenobi. Like me, she was a pop culture nut and said, yeah, the warrior, advisor who has to keep things together against long odds in the Lion King, the last space aircraft carrier battling impossible odds to keep the last remaining 50,000 humans in a rag tag fugitive fleet safe, against a more powerful enemy who wants to and should be able to wipe them out, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the last Jedi, protecting the young children, who are the galaxy’s only hope to end an oppressive empire.
She said, yeah, everyone, and others, are the last ones standing. Standing up for people who would otherwise not be able to stand up for themselves, the ones who have to make impossible things happen to, . . . oh, crap, what we do. Bingo I said, and we got it easy helping out injured workers and disabled people in a state and country whose leaders consider them takers, a drain on profits and the rich.
So, yes, I am a proud geek, but in 2015, the whole team had fun helping out that online class. I had to create a new hero and their super villain arch enemy. Mind you my hero is a kind of Captain America knock off made out of a geeky high school teacher whose wife and young child are innocent bystanders who get killed in the first Avengers movie, Battle of New York but joins SHIELD to protect people. Even our Firm Administrator, Lisa got in on the act. I had to create a new hero, and their arch nemesis, using mythological figures. Lisa insisted she got to help design the nemesis, Electrica, based on the goddess Nemesis from Greek mythology, and when she heard she was the one who retaliated against those who commit crimes against the weak, and bring down the ego maniacs a peg or two, we had to name the character in her honor. The cheesy picture of Electrica (where was the new AI drawing programs then? See what 30 seconds on one can do in 2023 below my cheesy one from 2015) below with my certificate for completing the class with a familiar autograph as the bonus for getting that done.
So, join us in taking a break from standing up for those who can’t on Monday, September 25th and celebrate National Comic Book Day. You can check comics & graphic novels out from our amazing Toledo Lucas County Public Library, watch your favorite TV or Movie Superhero, or Super Villain. No judgement, I have a weird soft spot for the anti-heroes like Jack Sparrow, Deadpool, etc. Even though I’m too much of a boy scout, Chris Evans version of Captain America type.
Maybe drop us your favorite heroine, hero or villain in the comments. And until our next post, where we go back to real world stuff, Excelsior! or if you’re a Captain Marvel/Carrol Danvers movie fan - “Higher, further, faster, baby.”
National Boss' Day: Here’s to Good Bosses, and a warning about Bad Ones and "Employment at Will” by Kurt Young
Monday October 16th is National Boss' Day. The creation of National Bosses Day can be traced back to Patricia Bays Haroski, who registered "National Boss' Day" with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958. She was working as a secretary for State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois for her father, She chose October 16, which was her father's birthday. The purpose was to have a special day in the workplace is to show the appreciation for their bosses and attempt to improve intra-office relationships between managers and their employees.
And I have to say as the “boss” around here, my team has done some very nice things for me on that day. I’ve gotten funny cards, some great food, even some great refreshments and more. But my favorite gift has to be the time at our old office that while I was out of town, the team got together and repainted the one wall of my office the colors of my favorite NFL team. A picture of their handiwork is at the end.
But I didn’t want to just do a, aren’t we bosses cool post. No, part of our job as Attorneys is to educate you about the law. And not to talk about a negative thing on what’s supposed to be a fun day, I can’t tell you how many times in my career I have had to deliver a horrible wake up call to clients about the concept of Employment at Will. So, I decided on the day we celebrate the good bosses, we should also throw out some information about just how bad the boss can be, and it still be 100% legal. And it's far worse in almost all of the Fifty States than you think.
In Ohio and pretty much every state, unless you have a specific employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, you are an employee at will. Now, that does mean you are allowed in those circumstances to tell the bad boss to take this job and shove it. But that’s not we as lawyers are usually worried about. It’s about people thinking they have protections they just don’t have.
Do you have an employee manual at work, we do. And if you look closely at every well written employee manual around you’re going to find, somewhere they can prove you saw it, a statement that “this is not an employment contract” or some variation of that. What does that mean? Well simply, they can enforce the manual against you and you are expected to follow it. Them, well not so much.
The simplest way to explain Employment at Will is to use the following statement, it means that your boss can fire or demote you for any reason they want, at any time they want, with or without any cause, unless you can prove they violated a specific Federal or State law. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to explain to that they don’t have to prove they had a good reason to let you go.
My favorite way to explain that to them involves my friend, colleague and co-counsel Russ Gerney. I would never do what I am about to say because Russ is a friend, a great attorney, and oh wait no truly an employee. He’s what’s called of counsel. Meaning we work together and share fees and responsibilities across our cases. But we also run our own practices. But we will, for the sake of illustration say Russ actually was an employee of mine.
What’s Russ’ horrible sin? Well Russ loves a certain professional football team, about 3 ½ hour drive east from Toledo. He has a picture of their stadium up in his office. They are the bitter divisional rivals of my favorite football team, a 3 hour drive south of Toledo and ditto on the picture of the stadium up in my office. To say our teams don’t like each other is, well an understatement. As someone who represents people who get hurt on the job, while I do enjoy football, I cringe watching this game.
So, let’s say the horrible team from the east beats up on my amazing team from the south on Sunday (and I hate to admit this, but based upon past history, it’s about a 64% chance that is going to happen). I come into work on Monday and fire Russ for being a fan of that team. Can he sue me for “wrongful termination”? Hate to tell you but NO. Liking the wrong football team is not something that is a prohibited reason for firing someone.
Don’t believe me, Google the name John Stone. John was a salesman for a Chicago area car dealership. He was a good salesman per news reports, and never had any write ups. But in 2011, the day after the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC Championship game for the 2010-11 season, on the way to beating (yes I was very happy to be able to say this) Russ’ favorite team in the Super Bowl he committed an unforgivable offense in the eyes of his employer. John went to work wearing his grandfather’s Packers. The dealership spent $20,000 a month to have an advertising relationship with the Bears. His boss demanded he remove the tie, when he didn’t, he was fired.
Now, switching back to Russ, from John who had no legal rights in Illinois for “wrongful termination”, neither would Russ. Ohio is an Employment at Will state. So, Russ couldn’t sue to get his lost wages and job back. If he was otherwise entitled to unemployment, he’d get it, as firing someone for being a fan of another football team, even the Steelers, is not a good reason to let them go. Also the whole Russ’ practice includes unemployment cases and he’s pretty good at it according to our clients.
Worse still, in my area of practice, Ohio Workers’ Compensation, not only is there very minimal protections for workers (I’ll talk about it in a paragraph or so) there was an incentive for firing a worker after a workplace injury. In 1995, the Ohio Supreme Court in State ex rel. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. Indus. Comm., 72 Ohio St.3d 401, 403, 650 N.E.2d 469, found that an employee who violated a written work rule was not entitled to be paid for their time off work via Temporary Total Disability Benefits. The employer’s of the state of Ohio, well they got really interested in that really quickly.
I can tell you years ago I was seated a table away from a group of former Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court. They were there to watch an organization I am a leader in, give a lifetime achievement award to one of their fellow justices. And one of them was showing the newsletter of his former law firm, a big, employer’s side firm, with basically a cookbook on how to avoid paying workers’ compensation by Temporary Total by firing an employee. And how they needed to do something about it.
I can’t count how many court cases from the Ohio Supreme Court and various courts of appeals have tried to determine what to do about this. The same is true for the hundreds of Workers’ Compensation Hearings I have attended where this has been argued against our client. But I can tell you that the Louisiana-Pacific case was still considered good law until last year. And it wasn’t the court system that took care of this. The Ohio General Assembly, thanks to the efforts of amazing attorneys on both sides of our practice, finally stepped into this mess and on September 23rd, and tried to wipe the slate clean of all those cases and go back to what we should be considering, if you take away everything else would the allowed conditions in the claim keep the injured worker from doing his former job. I say supposed to, because a compromise short cut in some language is likely going to be something we fight about the meaning of for years to come.
So, yes, even if you’re hurt on the job, they can fire you. Now, the Workers’ Compensation Law does have an exception to Employment at Will not allowing your employer to fire you as retaliation for filing a claim. But the exception, like many is very limited. For instance, for Ninety (90%) of Ohio's employers, you have to beat them to filing a claim before they fire you, so firing you the minute you got hurt, for getting hurt beats that. And you have very short time frames to put them on notice of your intent to sue them and file the lawsuit. And of course you have to prove all of it.
And that’s true about all of these exceptions. They are very technical and limited, e.g. I’m over 45, years old, an employer can’t fire me in favor of a younger person because of my age. But they could most likely get away with hiring me in favor of a younger person, or even someone over 45 as well, because of age.
So what should you do if you’re terminated. Well, first of all, keep your cool. Gather as much information together about who told you what on what dates and anyone who can support you as to being in the right them in the wrong, and contact us. Russ again has a very good track record in helping people navigate the Unemployment compensation systems of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
If you are one of our Workers’ Compensation clients call us right away as we can sometimes get the employer’s legal representatives to reconsider that decision. And we can point you to an excellent colleague who has helped many people finds those exceptions. Call us at 419-244-7885, current client or not, and we can help you figure out what your rights are.
I can tell you after going on thirty years of practice, seeing some of the worst of the worst of employment and workplace injury situations, I still believe that the majority of bosses out there care and deserve a little nod one day out of the year. So here’s to the good ones, my team tells me I am one, and please let us help protect you from the bad ones.
The right to vote is one of the most fundamental of human rights. Nearly half of the world’s nations are considered a Democracy, including ours. But in the US and especially in Ohio, being registered to vote is not automatic. Reasons people give are anything from not wanting to get picked for jury duty, not believing it will make any difference to vote, and for a few, it’s a religious freedom issue as their faith doesn’t allow them to be a part of the Democratic Process.
In 2012, looking growing numbers of unregistered voters and dropping numbers of voters who actually turn, a group of about 2000 civic organizations in the US, including The League of Women Voters, HeadCount, The Bus Federation (currently Alliance for Youth Organizing), Voto Latino, Rock the Vote, and Nonprofit VOTE helped launch the first National Voter Registration Day on September 25, 2012 By 2022, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center) had endorsed National Voter Registration Day.
My commitment and connection to voter rights work started in 2002. I have been active in campaigns and politics since I was 12 or 13. But using my law license and skills to actually protect voting rights started after a pretty great event in 2002. My wife and I welcomed our second child, James, into the world the first Monday that year. Early voting was not a thing yet in Ohio and Cheri knew she couldn’t get out to a polling place the next day and wanted to vote.
I volunteered to call down to the Lucas County Board of Elections to see if there was any way in the world to get her a ballot as it was too late for even absentee. The very kind staff person assured me it was not just possible, that they had teams that would make it happen. I gave them Cheri’s full name, and necessary info, including what hospital room she was in. Within hours a bipartisan team brought my wife a ballot and she voted it in the afternoon, having given birth to James, without pain medications. So you can see, we’ve made voting quite a thing in my family. In fact, James won’t yet forgive us for one thing. If he had been born even 5 ½ hours earlier, he could have voted in his first Presidential Election in 2020. Instead it will be 2024.
In 2004, with two amazing friends and partners we founded the Lucas County Democratic Promote the Vote Team. Since then we have helped recruit, train and deploy hundreds of volunteers to serve as Democratic Party election observers through Lucas County and in a few elections as far out as 18 counties.
Not long afterward, our team at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Young went a step further. Because I have been busy as a voter protection attorney or now Board of Elections member since 2004, we usually don’t have any appointments scheduled in the office. But some friends with a great organization with a great project they have continued to this day.
Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice has for years offered free rides to the polls to any voter in Lucas County who asks. If you call 419-VOTE NOW they will schedule a door to door and back again service from where ever you need them to pick you up, take you to your polling place, wait for you to vote and then take you back. And this is for free. Now, while many of them are Democrats like myself their ranks include all political parties and you could show up wearing a t-shirt or button for a candidate or issue they don’t agree with and they would still take you there. Sadly as I rose in the ranks of the Democratic Party they decided they couldn’t do, what we did for years, which is run that phone number out of our office on Election Days, have our staff volunteer (although many of us still do) as drivers, and we do still financially support them as much as we can.
Voting is a use it or lose it right. So, as National Voter Registration Day approaches on September 19th, please go and check your voter registration. Make sure you are registered under your current name, at your current address. You can check it for any county in Ohio and get the paperwork to register, updated your address and more at: https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/
Of if you are one of our Lucas County voters there is an even better page. Got to
https://www.lucascountyohiovotes.gov/voter-information Now I think that is better not just because I am on the Lucas County Board of Elections, but also because it has features others don’t have. For instance, not only can you check your registration, you can confirm your polling place, you can see a copy of what your ballot would look like printed out so you can research your votes. You can get a list of your elected officials and how to contact them.
And, let me just say you can also sign up to work for the Lucas Count Board of Elections. In big election years we hire hundreds of paid workers to do the intense, multiple month worth of getting the elections ready, but we also hire hundreds upon hundreds more to work on Election Day itself. You can go right on the page where you check your registration and sign up right there. Again these are paid positions with paid training.
So, this Voter Registration Day, take a minute, confirm you’re registered and good to go, and get out there and vote. The Democracy you save will be your own.
Very Few of us who were alive will ever forget where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. For me, it was at my office in Downtown Toledo. The news broke somewhere between when I left a parking garage I parked at a block or so south of my office at a former firm I was a partner in and when I arrived in the office.
I walked into our third floor lobby to our staff huddled around a TV in our large conference room. My office was the first by it. Not long after word broke of the plane hitting the Pentagon a client showed up for his appointment.
He was a World War II veteran and I asked him if he wanted to go forward with our meeting. He asked if I did. I said sure, this was my generation’s Pearl Harbor, but we were safe in Toledo and I couldn’t do anything that minute to help anyone.
Later that day, when we finally got everyone to go home, I joined my wife and my two years and four month old daughter. We watched video after video, but one hit me the most and my wife couldn’t get why it, of all the other horrors of the day, hit me the worst.
A man had a camera and was blocks away when one of the towers collapsed. The wave of ashes and debris blew over him as he ducked under a car. The picture below is of victims covered in that. But it wasn’t the sights of the video, it was the sound. Specifically a piercing chorus of sounds.
I have spent decades now representing injured first responders. Thanks to my position on Toledo City Council, I had the honor of chairing the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee of Toledo City Council, and even at an event called Fire Ops 101, got a one day taste of the job. I knew about the emergency locator beacons, being the son and great grand son of volunteer firefighters back then and that the sound was several hundred New York Firefighters in distress all at once. I knew the toll in the those who ran to that danger was going to be staggering.
Within about 24 hours, as I could see the men & women of the 180th Fighter Wing flying a combat air patrol to protect us from any attempt to hit us from Canada, I had an idea what I could do to help. We had a young associate who really wanted to do will and probate work. I am a Navy dependent and but for a really thick set of glasses would have served in the JAG Corps right out of the law school. I therefore new, we were going to be undertaking the most massive deployment of troops in decades. So I contacted the local Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and National Guard units and asked to talk to the JAG officer assigned. As expected, to say they were overwhelmed by the coming task was understatement.
So thanks to a great team of partners, that associate and our support staff, we decided to offer to any local active duty or reserve military personnel a free will and durable power of attorney and discounted ones for their families. And we did hundreds. But within a day of our story hitting local media, firms throughout our area joined us.
A month or so later, I signed up for Trial Lawyers Care, which was started by the now American Association for Justice. Because of the scale of the tragedy of 9-11, with people killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia and a web of possible ways to get families help, a clearinghouse was set up with training and insurance to cover us. We would provide free assistance with workers’ compensation claims, social security survivors claims, and eventually claims to funds for those injured on the ground.
That December, my wife and a team from our church got to do something constructive on the ground. She and two others trained as grief counselors went to a church, blocks from Ground Zero in New York and offered prayer and comfort to those working the pile of what was the World Trade Center, the picture with the candle was shot just outside the work area. The team wanted to record and be a little light in that darkness.
Since then, my family and I have been twice to where Flight 93 went down in Shanksville, PA, before our Air National Guard unit, which was drilling and had F-16's ready to launch, could shoot it down. And we visited the Ground Zero Memorial in New York and the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, VA. If you’ve never gone to them, they are truly holy ground. You can almost feel the energy, not of the horrible evil that cost so many lives that day but of the courage and heroism that saved many more.
As the quote from the Roman poet Virgil on a wall at the memorial in New York says “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time.”. Today we remember those who died that day and over the years since including 343 firefighters, 23 police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, who ran to the danger instead of from it. And the more than 2,200 civilians the couldn’t rescue and the 50,000 plus they did.
Today is Labor Day. For many of us, this is a day off. The unofficial last day of Summer. The last day to wear white under the "old school" fashion calendar. But in my household, it’s a little bit more.
Before my parents generation, it had been a century on Mom’s side of the family, and maybe more on Dad’s since anyone had gone to college. Grandma & Grandpa Young met in high school, had two kids very quickly, and were stuck in jobs that were not going to feed their families. Grandma & Grandpa Schultz were in the same kind of boat.
But they all ended up in Toledo, working in jobs where for at least a time, they were a member of a union. Grandpa Young worked on the railroad and got good pay and good benefits due to that job. Grandma Young worked as a cafeteria worker in schools, working her way up to running the cafeteria at high school. Grandpa Schultz was a tool & die worker who fixed machinery for Champion Sparkplug and later General Motors. Grandma Schultz was a switchboard operator back in the days when connecting a call really meant plugging wires into a different extension to make the connection.
Thanks to the good pay, and good benefits of those jobs, Grandma & Grandpa Young managed to raise four kids, albeit in a two bedroom house, sending all but my Dad to college. Dad, was depending on athletics to get him in to and pay for college and it almost worked. He was supposed to play football on a scholarship, but injured himself so badly his senior year he couldn’t pass the physical. Later the US Navy helped send Dad to college.
Grandpa & Grandma Schultz raised two kids, got them good educations in high school, Mom couldn’t go to college as Grandpa got laid off at the worst possible moment and she fell in love with Dad and followed him up and down the Atlantic Seaboard to Navy ports and bases as far North as Rhode Island, several times through Norfolk, VA, West to Pensacola, FL and South to San Juan Puerto Rico.
On my Dad’s side, several Aunts became teachers, and joined the teacher’s union. On my Mom’s side, my uncle joined the same local of the United Auto Workers as his dad. In his last year of life Dad was working for the City of Akron Health Department and a member of a public employee union.
So thanks to the good pay and good benefits that labor membership provided, every member of my generation got to go to college. Some chose careers in the trades and work as painters. Both of them have owned their own businesses. Some became teachers and enjoyed good benefits, maybe not always good pay. One cousin went to a top tier dental school and runs his own practice in the area. One helped run an office, another helped run a division of a major corporation, and I got to go to law school and marry a minister. Our kids generation have all gotten a short to try college, and some are working as nurses, etc.
So in the course of just a few generations we went from picking crops for a national soup company, to being teachers, doctors, lawyers, office managers, nurses, and small business owners. Not a transformation you said too often.
When it was my turn to pick an area of practice to work in, my choice wasn’t hard at all. Both Mom & Dad did work in the medical field. Labor and workers transformed our family. So something where I got to help out medical professionals and got to be a voice for workers was natural fit for me.
That’s why for the last 30 years I have been proud to stand in the trenches for workers, handling Ohio Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability claims for those who can not work for a time or ever again. But I also put my time and money where my mouth is supporting Labor through helping unions in actions and with advice on these claims and joining in actions with groups like Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice.
If you enjoy things like workplace safety protections, the safety nets of workers’ compensation & Social Security, forty hour work weeks, weekends, etc. know that it was our nation’s labor unions who fought the fights to get us these. And when I mean fights, it was not just metaphor, many men & women died in clashes during strike breaking attempts. You can visit a memorial to one here in Toledo. And on the anniversary of that event we’ll have a post on that on our blog.
But for now, thank you to all who work for a living, doing the jobs that keep us able to enjoy this very blessed society. And thank you to all of the former and current labor leaders and members who gave us these protections and freedoms.