Oops! Sessions on OSHA, Immigration and California

Sessions OSHAYou have to hand it to Jeff Sessions. He knows his audience. Or at least he tries to.

Yesterday Sessions traveled deep into enemy territory — the state of California — to blast the state’s leaders for allegedly violating the Constitution of the United States by passing laws that he said would obstruct federal immigration efforts and put law enforcement officers in danger.

I won’t go into the substance of the debate except to quote California Governor Jerry Brown: “It is a lie.”

What sparked the interest of those of us at Confined Space World Headquarters wasn’t former Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions accusing California of threatening secession or invoking the grave of Abraham Lincoln, but this statement: “Just imagine if a state passed a law forbidding employers from cooperating with OSHA in ensuring workplace safety! Or the Environmental Protection Agency for looking after polluters. Would you pass a law to do that?”

Well, wow! What can we say about that?

First, I’m impressed that Sessions knows what OSHA is and that the agency ensures workplace safety. I’m hoping this translates into more cooperation between the Justice Department and OSHA in securing criminal prosecutions against employers who willfully kill their employees on the job.

But what impressed me most was the thought that went into this statement.  What laws, Sessions undoubtedly calculated, would the socialist residents of California value most; what agencies would they be most opposed to abolishing? None other than their beloved OSHA and EPA, of course.

Although I haven’t seen the before and after polling, I’m pretty sure Sessions’ analogy didn’t change many minds in the Golden State.


But if Sessions’ main goal was to illustrate the horrors of state unconstitutionally pre-empting the feds, he picked the wrong state.

If Sessions’ main goal was to illustrate the horrors of state unconstitutionally pre-empting the feds, he picked the wrong state.

California, you see, is one of 21 states that has chosen to run its own OSHA program. To be sure, it has to be federally approved, but it gets to set its own standards and run its own enforcement program, as long as they are “at least as effective” as federal OSHA’s.

Indeed, California has its own ergonomics standard, while the federal standard, you may recall, was repealed in 2001 by a Republican Congress and George W. Bush. California also has a workplace violence standard — a similar standard to one that federal OSHA was working on — but has been relegated to the “long term agenda.” And California just modernized and strengthened its Process Safety Management standard to better ensure the safety of the state’s refineries — something Federal OSHA is supposedly working on but seems to be missing in action.

So if Sessions had actually wanted to show the benefits of a state’s legal innovations intended to better protect its residents (vs. the life-threatening pitfalls), he couldn’t have chosen a better state than California.


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