Save Harwood, War on Workers, War on the Earth: This Week’s Short Stuff

Save Harwood, Save Workers: The Trump Administration’s plan to scrap the Susan Harwood Worker Training Grant program has been getting a bit more negative attention. Some of the attention has come from Charles Davis at  ATTN,  mobile media platform for the young(er) folk. His piece, ‘Workers Are Going to Die’: The Overlooked Budget Cut That Could Kill, highlights Fernando Garcia is an organizer with the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center, which has used money from the grant program to train workers in the local poultry industry. He told ATTN: the workers that come in for the training have reported “very unsafe working conditions,” talking about the “how they have to process over 40 chickens a minute, working with sharp objects, close together.”

Meanwhile,  James Kaufman and Robert Lehrman, writing for The Hill, describe how the Harwood grants have improved safety for students and teachers in science classrooms. And, of course, don’t forget to contact your Congressional Representatives. Interfaith Worker Justice has made it easy for you here.

Been There, Done That: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has another great idea to challenge climate change, according to E&E News: “red team, blue team” exercises to conduct an “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science. “The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals … provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science.”   Coincidentally, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, came up with the same idea at a Congressional hearing. You can listen here as Senator Al Franken (D-MN) systematically dismantles Perry and the whole “red team, blue team” idea, explaining to Perry that that’s exactly how peer-reviewed science already works. Watch it.

More on OSHA’s Beryllium Rollback: Reporters and pubic health professionals continue to criticize OSHA’s proposal to weaken beryllium protections for construction and shipyard workers. Sarah Okeson from DC Report points out that one of the chief opponents of OSHA’s beryllium standard is Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, whose home state of Alabama is also home to Austal USA, a shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy. Austal USA donated $5,300 to Byrne’s last congressional campaign. Huntington Ingalls Industries, which operates the largest U.S. shipyard, gave $10,000. The Abrasive Blasting Manufacturers Alliance has spent $60,000 on federal lobbying so far this year. Its lobbyists include former Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)  Jennifer Gollan from Reveal also looks at the proposed rollback, as does Union of Concerned Scientists Executive Director Kathleen Rest who puts OSHA and other regulatory agencies on notice that “that their FIRST priority is protect the health, safety, and security of the American people.  Private interests must not trump the public interest.”

Silica: Another Battleground in Trump’s War on Workers: Public health historians Gerald Markowitz, David Rosner and Ronald Bayer, writing in the Huffington Post,  review the long and sordid history of the nation’s almost century long effort to protect workers from deadly silica dust. The authors look back to the Roosevelt administration, through efforts of the Clinton administration whose efforts to protect workers foundered due to strong industry opposition. Finally, last year, the Obama administration issued a long overdue standard to protect construction workers and others exposed to silica. Now, they warn, “The Trump administration has announced its intention to weaken the long delayed and desperately needed regulation of silica as part of its grander anti-regulatory agenda.”

War on Workers — The NLRB Front:  Sharon Block, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, warns that Trump appointments to the National Labor Relations Board will give the Board’s majority to the Republicans who  “may well overturn most of the major precedents of the Obama era, of which there were many.” In addition to weakening workers’ collective bargaining rights, Block fears that the NLRB will not be able to adapt to our rapidly changing economy in the areas of social media, email and the fissured workplace.

War on Workers — Overtime: This is kind of a bad news good news story. Last year, the Obama administration finally raised the overtime threshold to $47,000 per year, benefitting 13 million workers. Anyone making less than that would have to get paid overtime after 40 hours in a week. A federal court later found stayed that regulation, finding that the federal government had focused too much on wages and not enough on job duties.  The Trump administration, bowing to pressure from its industry allies, announced its intention to reverse the raise. But now DOL, in its response to the court decision,  has decided to to defend the use of salary thresholds as a basis for deciding whether employers can exempt certain salaried employees from overtime pay, although they still intend to lower the actual threshold. Complicated? Yes. BNA summary here and NELP Press Statement here. Chris Lu shows us where workers are affected.

Baby It’s Hot Outside: It’s summer, the climate is warming, and workers’ rights are shrinking. In this environment, everyone working in high heat situations should remember that heat stroke kills.  Check out OSHA’s heat website, and download the NIOSH-OSHA heat app that will calculate the impact of heat and humidity where ever you are working, and give you pointers for how to stay alive and healthy.  And keep repeating to yourself “water, rest, shade.” Water, rest, shade. Repeat.

Beryllium Department of Labor Environmental Protection Agency Short Stuff Susan Harwood Worker Training Program

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