Short Stuff

Making Recess Fun Again: One more week left of Congressional recess. Anyone talked to their Senator or Representative about not cutting OSHA’s budget or rolling back protections?  If not, here is a schedule of Congressional Town Hall Meetings in your areas. Get out there, or give them a call. Let me know how it went at confinedspace2017@gmail.com.

Silica: 45 Years Not Enough To Save Workers’ Lives? Dave Jamieson at the Huffington Post describes the human cost that the cancer causing mineral silica has taken and the workers’ fears that the Trump administration will roll back new silica protections. Bricklayer Tom Ward watched his father die at age 39, after “an awful few years” of suffering from silicosis.  And Tom Serafin suffers “from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a litany of other lung maladies” after being exposed to silica for 35 years on the railroad.  The Trump Labor Department recently delayed enforcement of the standard for 90 days and the all agencies have been asked to review existing protections.

Foxes, Chicken Coops and Conflicts: A New York Times article on conflicts of interest among Trump political appointees highlights a Labor Department Special Assistant, Geoffrey Burr who seems to have slipped through the “lobbyist loophole” Burr is a former lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, whose federal disclosure form notes that he lobbied DOL against the silica standard and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulation that would have required federal contractors to disclose federal labor law violations. Under Mr. Obama’s ethics order, Mr. Burr would probably not have been able to join the Labor Department.

The Times notes that “Trump eliminated an [Obama] ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years” and “Under Mr. Obama’s ethics order, Mr. Burr would probably not have been able to join the Labor Department.”

The Times article also names former Fidelity lobbyist Shahira Knight who is on the White House National Economic Council, and lobbied against the “fiduciary rule,” which “requires financial firms to act in a client’s best interest when dispensing retirement advice.”

Fear Wins, Workers Lose: Stephen Lee at Bloomberg BNA reports that immigrant workers are afraid to get legal help when their rights are violated. This is especially problematic in California, where 10 percent of workers are undocumented.  This includes not attending Workers Compensation hearings after being injured on the job.  Obama’s OSHA put enormous effort into educating immigrant workers about their rights under the law and encouraging them to file complaints about unsafe conditions. All of this could be reversed as the Trump administration boasts about going into courtrooms and government facilities to arrest undocumented workers.  The result: more workers will get hurt and die — and not just immigrants. Even documented workers will fear making waves if they can be replaced by more easily intimidated undocumented workers.

Workers Memorial Day: Does everything you read here bother you? If that’s the case, then nine out of ten doctors recommend participating in Workers Memorial Day activities on April 28. Remember the dead and fight for the living. Find an event or organize your own.

We don’t need no stinkin’ regulations: Workplace Violence edition: The American Hospital Association has come out against an OSHA Workplace Violence standard to protect workers against workplace violence in health care facilities.  The AHA believes that OSHA dissemination of best practices “would do more to ensure the advancement and promotion of workplace safety than its adoption of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard for compliance and enforcement,” wrote AHA General Counsel Melinda Reid Hatton. “One-size-fits-all” is the standard criticism that industry uses to oppose every OSHA standard, even when OSHA issues a program standard that allows facilities to design their own programs. The AHA’s opposition is not surprising. They also opposed OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard back in the 1990’s. The Bloodborne Pathogens standard is credited with saving hundreds of lives every year and has eliminated Hepatitis B and C infections among health care workers.

Quote of the Week: Jacob Silverman pulls no punches in the Washington Post as he describes the Myth of the Empowered Consumer:

We live, work, shop, and travel under a system of grossly asymmetric power relationships, in which consumers sign away most of their rights just by purchasing a ticket and companies deputize themselves to enforce contracts with hired goons. It doesn’t help that the Trump administration is rapidly stripping away as many regulations as it can, promising to repeal two for every new one implemented — an ultra-wealthy administration’s attempt to formalize the plutocratic free-for-all that has followed decades of growing corporate power, defined by massive income inequality, regulatory capture, a revolving door between agencies and the industries they oversee, and steadily eroding consumer rights. The empowered consumer is a figment of our imagination.

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