Monday, January 30, 2012

My Letter to Governor Quinn regarding the Cook County Morgue scandal.

The Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest
Post Office Box 178388
Chicago Illinois 60617-8388

Office of the Bishop

January 30, 2012

The Honorable Pat Quinn
Governor for the State of Illinois
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield Illinois 62706

Dear Governor Quinn:

I hope that this letter finds you well.

I am writing to you in my capacity as the Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest regarding the latest scandal that has hit the Cook County Morgue.

It is my belief that the current policies of the Cook County Morgue regarding the final disposition of the remains of indigents are outdated for the Twenty-First century. I believe that the practice of burial by mass grave is disrespectful to the basic dignity of human life. We do better with the carcasses of animal road kill than we do with the remains of the indigents.

I am reaching out to you to ask your assistance to the creation of legislation that would standardized within the State of Illinois a common policy for the final disposition of the remains of indigents.

Permit me the opportunity to share with you recommendations which I have made to Cook County Board President Preckwinkle on this matter:

• Upon taking custody of remains, the County Medical Examiner will obtain the DNA of the deceased and created an ID record with this information.

• After remains have been in the custody of the County for more than 60 days, they will be cremated and place in a simple container with a file identification number attached and returned to the custody of the County for storage in a non-refrigerated location with the hope of possible reuniting with family.

• If the cremains of indigents are not claimed within one year, the County can purchase one or two traditional size grave lots and install an ossuary as a final dignified resting place for the cremains of the indigents. And if at some future date in time, a family member becomes identified, they may be directed to where there family member has been placed at rest.

I realize that these suggestions represents a “broad stroke” remedy to this scandal, but I believe that the current scandal that has again happened in Cook County calls our state community to consider thinking outside of the current box to policies for new and caring policies which will allow the State of Illinois to become the template for others to follow.

I invite you to consider my plea to you and to help create the appropriate legislation to redress this issue.

Please know that I have committed myself to this issue and to walk whatever lengths to prevent such scandals from happening again. It is my prayer that you would join me in this journey.

I thank you for taking the time to consider this letter and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Until then, I remain

Most Respectfully Yours,

James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest

Friday, January 13, 2012

Your bullying boss may be slowly killing you!

I would like to share with you a recent article by Stephanie Pappas from LiveScience:

41 percent of American workers having been psychologically harassed at work

If you spend your workday avoiding an abusive boss, tiptoeing around co-workers who talk behind your back, or eating lunch alone because you've been ostracized from your cubicle mates, you may be the victim of workplace bullying. New research suggests that you're not alone, especially if you're struggling to cope.
Employees with abusive bosses often deal with the situation in ways that inadvertently make them feel worse, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. That's bad news, as research suggests that workplace abuse is linked to stress — and stress is linked to a laundry list of mental and physical ailments, including higher body weight and heart disease.
In at least one extreme case, workplace bullying has even been linked to suicide, much as schoolyard bullying has been linked to a rash of suicides among young people.

Bullying is "a form of abuse which carries tremendous health harm," said Gary Namie, a social psychologist who directs the Workplace Bullying Institute. "That's how you distinguish it from tough management or any of the other cutesy ways people use to diminish it."

Struggle to cope

Namie was not involved in the new study, which surveyed nearly 500 employees about how they dealt with abusive supervision. Abusive supervisors are bosses who humiliate and insult their employees, never let them forget their mistakes, break promises and isolate employees from other co-workers, study author Dana Yagil of the University of Haifa in Israel told LiveScience.

About 13 to 14 percent of Americans work under an abusive supervisor, Yagil said. Her study on Israeli workers found that abused employees tend to cope by avoiding their bosses, seeking support from co-workers and trying to reassure themselves. As useful as those strategies might sound, however, they actually made employees feel worse.

"It is understandable that employees wish to reduce the amount of their contact with an abusive boss to the minimum, but the strategies they use actually further increase their stress instead of reducing it," Yagil said. "This may happen because these strategies are associated with a sense of weakness and perpetuate the employee's fear of the supervisor."

Tragic consequences

Avoiding a workplace bully might seem easier than avoiding a school bully, given that employees can quit their jobs. But workers get caught in a cycle of stress, Namie said. An online survey of targeted workers by the WBI found that they put up with the abuse for an average of 22 months.

The stress of the bullying may itself lead to bad decision-making, Namie said. A 2009 study in the journal Science found that stressed-out rats fail to adapt to changes in their environment. A portion of the stressed rats' brains, the dorsomedial striatum, actually shrunk compared with that region in relaxed rats. The findings suggest that stress may actually re-wire the brain, creating a decision-making rut. The same may occur in bullied workers, Namie said.

"This is why a person can't make quality decisions," he said. "They can't even consider alternatives. Just like a battered spouse, they don't even perceive alternatives to their situations when they're stressed and depressed and under attack."

Sometimes this cycle ends with tragedy. Namie works as an expert legal witness on bullying. In one upcoming case, he said, a woman put up with daily barrages of screaming abuse from her boss for a year. By the end, she was working 18-hour days, trying to shield the employees under her from her boss' tyranny, Namie said. Finally, she and several of her co-workers put together a 25-page complaint to human resources. Nothing happened, until she was called in for a meeting with senior management. The woman knew she would be fired for making the complaint, Namie said.

"Rather than allowing herself to be terminated, she bought a pistol, went to work, left three suicide notes, and she took her own life at work," he said.

"She was like that rat stuck in a rut," he added. "She didn't see any alternative at that point."

Why bullying happens

While all workplace-bullying cases are not so extreme, it does seem to be a common problem, said Sandy Herschcovis, a professor of business administration at the University of Manitoba who studies workplace aggression. Between 70 and 80 percent of Americans report rudeness and incivility at work, Herschcovis told LiveScience. Fewer are systematically bullied, she said, but the best estimate puts the number at about 41 percent of American workers having been psychologically harassed at work at some point.

Hierarchical organizations such as the military tend to have higher rates of bullying, Herschcovis said, as do places where the environment is highly competitive.

"Definitely the organizational context contributes," Herschcovis said.
The personality of the bully is often key, with some research suggesting that childhood bullies become bullies as adults, she said. Targets of bullying are often socially anxious, have low self-esteem, or have personality traits such as narcissism, Herschcovis said. "We don't want to blame the victim, but we recognize this more and more as a relationship" between the bully and the target, she said.
Little research has been done on how to deal with abusive bosses or bullying co-workers. In mild cases, where a boss may not realize how their behavior is coming across, direct confrontation might work, Yagil said. One research-based program that seems to have potential is called the Civility, Respect and Engagement at Work project, Herschcovis said. That program has been shown to improve workplace civility, reduce cynicism and improve job satisfaction and trust among employees, she said. The program has employees discuss rudeness and incivility in their workplace and make plans to improve.

For workers experiencing bullying, Herschcovis recommended reporting specific behavior to higher-ups, as well as examining one's own behavior. Sometimes victims inadvertently contribute to the bullying relationship, she said. Namie cautioned that victims should proceed with care, however, as there are no anti-bullying workplace laws on the books in the U.S.

"HR [human resources] has no power or clout to make senior management stop," Namie said. "Without the laws, they're not mandated to make policies, and without the mandate, they don’t know what to do."

Since 2003, 21 states have introduced some version of anti-bullying bills, but none have yet passed. Twelve states have legislation pending in 2012, according to

In the meantime, Herschcovis and her colleagues have found that bystanders in the workplace are usually sympathetic to the victim rather than the bully.
"Outside parties are most likely to want to intervene, and to be in a position to intervene," Herschcovis said. The trick, she added, will be to find ways to encourage co-workers to stand up for one another.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hopes and Wishes for 2012

I hope that 2012 will enable us to celebrate:

*Freedom from our economic depression.
*The return of all our troops home.
*Workplaces that ensures the dignity and respect of all workers.
*Social and Religious Leadership that natures and not divides.
*An end to reality television shows.
*Universal Health Care for all persons.
*Food, Clothing and Housing for those in need.
*The grace of living in community.
*Peace at home and abroad.
*Equal rights and dignity for all persons.
*The success of my students and all students.

Just wishing.